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This unit focuses on legends. It defines legends, delving into its place in African communication. It also presents some examples drawing from some geopolitical zones in Nigeria to enhance students understanding of legends.


At the end of this unit study, should be able to:

  1. Define a legends
  2. Discuss the features of legends
  3. Have a better understanding of legends across Nigerian geopolitical zones Outline legends in their communities


3.1 What is a Legend?

A legend is a story from ancient times about people and events that may or may not be true. This type of story is mostly about a famous person, especially in particular field that was well known (famous), initiated and admired by people. So, strong men known for their contributions such as those who fought and won various wars, community competitive wrestling contests, fought against wild animals such as lions, tigers and so on are known as legends. They were accredited and known for their special skills in their various activities.

3.2 Features of a Legend

A legend is a story that is believed to have its origins in truth. A legend is set in the real world, and the story comes out of a collective history that people remember – which lends credence of truth to the stories. People in legends sometimes seem to have super human powers.
So, a legend is a traditional story about human beings who possess supernatural powers in events and deeds carried out by them and how it relates to their lives, families and societies. It mainly incorporates supernatural elements of a person having a special place in public esteem because of striking qualities or deeds, real or fictitious.
A legend could be a non-historical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical. The body of the story could relate to people, deity or clan. It is a collection of stories of admirable persons.
In common parlance, the term legend and folktale are sometimes used interchangeably with myth. Technically, however, these are not the same. Citing Donna Rosenberg, in her book Folklore, Myth, and Legends: A World Perspective, “Myth and Legend from Ancient Times to the Space Age” (2006) states that:

A legend is a story from the past about a subject that was, or is believed to have been, historical. Legends concern people, places, and events. Usually, the subject is a saint, a king, a hero, a famous person, or a war. A legend is always associated with a particular place and a particular time in history.

3.3 Some Examples of Legends


a) The Anansa Ikot Ebutong Legend in Cross River State
The Efik kingdom was the center of civilization for both the Ibibios and the Ejakam people in the Cross River State. The Anansa Ikot Ebutong who is still respected among the Efik people was a great man. He had many wives. He never went for war but if the warriors must win wars he had to be consulted or his residence must be where the warriors would spend their last night before they moved to war. There was no record of warriors lost in wars after they had paid homage to Anansa during the whole history of his existence. Until when another man known as Amanatta came up to contest with Anansa by saying that he could also prepare the warriors for war and they will return victoriously. The very first time the Efik kingdom was defeated in the war was when Amanatta prepared the warriors for war.
In annoyance and shame, Anansa disappeared from the village. Only a hunter saw his spirit in the bush. He told the hunter the reason for his disappearance and promised to always protect his people. He also told the hunter that he prefered to live in the water because it was more peaceful. Till date, Anansa is consulted at where they believe he leaves. The place was used as port and his statue is by the entrance of the port.

b) A Legend from Itsekiri in Delta State
In those days in itsekiri land, some people were initiated into some age grade society, in the belief that when they become old, they do not really die but undergo transformation. As such, during their final ritual, as a recognized member of the age grade, they were swallowed up by the sea and they were not mourned by kinsmen, since it is assumed that they are immortal.

c) A Legend from the Ibo Speaking Area of Delta StateOne legend that would not be forgotten in a hurry in Ukala-Okpunor especially the Ezi indigenes is Enyi meaning Elephant. Ukala-Okpunor comprises of all the people of Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
During the war between two villages in Ukala-Okpunor for territorial boundaries, Enyi stood out as a warrior. After bouts of fierce fighting between the two villages, Enyi alone went to the route to the stream, this left them stranded, yet no one dared disobey Enyi’s order. They only go to the stream when they knew he must have left but would take to their heels at sight or mere mention of his name. Sometimes he would walk with his back and hide himself so that his footprints would deceive people that he has gone forward. They would then be relieved and mocked that Enyi is tired and had gone. He would then jump out of his hiding place and scare them all off. Through his exploits the Ezis succumbed and fled from the territory in dispute.
d) The Legend of Obi Ossai in Aboh Kingdom of Delta State
Aboh kingdom emigrated from the old Benin Kingdom. It is known for fighting because the people of Aboh were great warriors of their time.
Obi Ossai was also a great warrior who was greatly feared in the town of Aboh till date. He was not just a king who sat on the throne to give orders, but also personally fought for himself to acquire slaves for his kingdom. The worst part of him was that, he did not restrict his slave deal to those he captured, but also he kidnapped his town’s men (freeborn), sold and enslaved them for white men’s treasure. This advent made the people of Aboh to dislike him and disassociated themselves from him.

Although, he was mocked, he did not allow himself to be dominated by the white. He cleverly dealt with them without his being cheated, unlike in the case of king Jaja of Opobo who was tricked, imprisoned and later killed. In spite of that, his people did not have anything to do with him. They made a law among themselves never to be so near to his palace, even after his death. This palace was left for wild animals to inhabit. They believed that the palace was the dwelling place of evil spirits and whosoever goes there cannot come back alive.

e) Uhron-Ehneh (Possessor of Four Heads) Legend from Isoko Delta State
Uhron-Ehneh, possessor of four heads, was the horrible deity of towns, and was represented by a hillock, or, by an artificial mound. Sacrifice was made to the Uhron-Eneh every three months, or four times in a year. The sacrifies always consisted of a newborn child of not more than three of four days old. The child’s throat is cut by a priest, and the blood, spilled into a calabash or earthen vessel, which was placed on the summit of the mound. During this dreadful scene, the mother of the child had to be present. This sacrifice was called “the season of blood.” Uhron-Eneh had, as his name, four heads, which would watch the four points of a compass from the top of his mound. It was believed that no war or pestilence could attack a town under his protection.
He had the legs and feet of a goat sometimes at night, he appeared in the shape of venomous serpent.
f) The Legend of Idia of the Benin Kingdom, Edo StateQueen mother Idia ni iye Esigie (Idia the mother of Esigie) is regarded in Bini Kingdom as a very brave mother, a woman who defied all royal paraphernalia and went to war to save the Bini kingdom from captives.
During the reign of Oba Esigie in 1504 he added Idah, a state lying between Benin and Benue to the empire. The Esigie like all his predecessors sent his mother to reside at lower Uselu and called her the Iyoba of Uselu.
In 1515, there was a war between the Idah and Edo people; they wanted to reclaim their land. So, Oba Esigie went to war. It was a surprise because it had never happened before in history of Benin kingdom as Queen Idia offered to go to war front and also took some soldiers from Uselu with her. They fought bravely and her army killed the general of Idah army. The war initiation by queen mother Idia is consistent with a common saying amogst the Edo today that “Okhuo Iyo Okuo, sokpan Idai ne Iye Esigie”, meaning-women do not go to war except for Idia mother of Esigie. It is noteworthy that queen Idia’s commemorative plaque was used for the first world black festival of Art and Culture (FESTIVAL) which took place in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1977.


g) The Legend of Moremi, Osun State

A long time ago, the peace and tranquillity of the little village of Ilujin was shatterd by masquerades and spirit who came to steal and kidnap little children of the village. The king was at a loss of what to do as the whole village had failed to find solutions. This made the king of Ilujin proclaim that anybody who could bring the unrest to an end would be given a huge reward.

In the village, lived a beautiful young lady, called Moremi, who was always fond of adventures. Moremi had already lost her two siblings when she heard the news and decided to stop the menace once and for all.

On the night the masquraders struck, Moremi allowed herself to be captured and taken away. Moremi was taken far away to another village of Hakun. She found out that the spirits were actually human beings dressed as masquerades that specialised in slave trading. Moremi was betrothed to the village chief because of her exceptional beauty. After marrying the chief for a year, she cajoled him into telling her about their raids. He revealed to her that his warriors only wear palm fronds and make funny noises to scare villagers away during their raids.

After getting all the secrets from the chief, Moremi ran away into the bush and after spending several days she arrived at her village. She called the king and told him all the secrets of the spirits of the night. When the people of Ilujin heard Moremi’s story, they were shocked and very angry. They prepared themselves for the next raid. When the spirits of the night struck again, man and woman of Ilujin led by Moremi came out and some enemies were captured and that marked the end of raids at night by the spirits. Moremi was eulogized and she eventually married the king of Ilujin. From then, she was called “Moremi Ajanshoro” meaning “Moremi the raging whirlwind”.

h) The Legend of Oronra, Ogun State
Oronra remains a legend among the natives of Yewa south, Ilaro. It is believed that he descended from Abeokuta with little or nothing known about his parents. It is said that because of his love for the people of Yewa South, Ilaro people, he fought on their side against the Egbas to gain freedom. Furthermore, it was said that he, (Oronra) had a cub as pet, which later grew into a tiger. Since he fought and gained independence for the Ilaro people, he was venerated for his courage and great strength, which account for his rearing a wild animal as pet! He was said to be a great hunter who was later betrayed by the people who once revered him. For that act of treachery and disloyalty, he mysteriously descended into the earth never to be seen again.

It is believed and said that when the indigenes of Ilaro realized their misdeeds, they repented and erected a bronze statue and his tiger in his honour, to appease him. Till date, the statue is located in the central part of Ilaro where he (Oronra) is appeased during annual festivals.

i) Ogunfunminire of Erijiyan Ekiti, A Legend in Ekiti State
Ogunfunminire was a great Yoruba hunter. He had many wives and children. History tells us that he was a very powerful man. He was so powerful that he could change himself into anything he so desired e.g. snake, dog, cat, etc. To do that, he had a big pot of charms and whenever he was going out, he would enter the pot and change into whatever to which he wanted to change. To become a human being again, he re-entered the pot on his return. According to history, there was a day he went out after changing into a snake. On coming back, he discovered that he could not change back to a human being as his pot of charms had been broken. This signalled the end of Ogunfunminire of Erijiyan Ekiti as he had to crawl back to the bush to remain a snake forever.
j) Efunsetan Aniwura: The Great Iyalode of Ibadan, Oyo State
Efunsetan Aniwura, the great Iyalode of Ibadan, was a wealthy and powerful woman of unusual boldness, strength and intelligence. According to accounts of books, biographies and films about her, she reigned as the Iyalode of Ibadan for years. No light was shed about her husband but she had only one child (girl), who died at a very young age, between the ages of 19 and 22 years whilst in labour.

Efunsetan was a very close friend of Madam Tinubu the Iyalode of Egba. She was a wealthy woman in their days. Till date it is said that Efunsetan was the boldest, most powerful and wealthiest Iyalode that reigned in Yoruba land. Her glory was rare and could not be compared with any other during her reign.
Efunsetan was a business woman who travelled round the country to buy product like bitter kola, kola-nut, cocoa, etc, she was well-known among the Hausa and the western states.

Efunsetan had her own warriors and slaves like the king and released them for war in favour of her people. During her days, she helped to improve the economy of Ibadan through business transactions. She was also a good employer of labour. She was among the first women that had business transaction with the white men. This also helped Ibadan in civilizing the people. She was loved by all. Although a very strict woman, she was also very nice to her slaves and employees. She gave out gift and money to them freely at times without measure. A story was cited

about a slave of hers who delivered twins in her absence. At her return, she gave her food, clothing, pomade, even money. She gives out her slaves in marriages and even conducts naming ceremonies for them, but all these stopped after the death of her daughter. After the death of her daughter, every thing took a new turn. She was no longer submissive to God or the King, for according to her, God has failed her. So, God should manage his heaven while she managed her own earth. She killed her slaves at will for committing atrocities either by beheading, poisoning, etc. She gave a sanction that no cry of a child must be heard in her domain, neither must conception, courtship nor marriage take place. Any female that conceived would either die or have the pregnancy terminated by forceful abortion depending on her (Efunsetan) choice while the man responsible would die.

Efunsetan was said to be powerful in terms of diabolic powers. It was not stated if she actually belonged to any occult groups like the ifa, osun, witches, etc, but she had unusual powers which were common mostly among the witches.

After beheading one of her slaves for getting pregnant for another of her slaves, even though her younger brother claimed he was responsible. Her brother conspired with her slaves to save the life of the slave girl. She refused all pleas from friends and family members. She went ahead to kill the girl by beheading, her right in the village square. Several attempts were made by her salves and slave’s lover and her friend to prevent Esunsetan from killing her (to save her). She found out through her powers and ended up in killing them instead.

It was after this that the king ordered her to be brought to the palace dead or alive, since every effort in summoning her to the palace had failed. At a second thought, he (king) decided to go with them robed in all kinds of charms. At her house she asked for their reason in her house, which she was told, she asked if she could be excused to pick something. She went back into the room and killed herself with majele (poison) saying “kaka ki ileku ile oya saa” – Meaning it is better to die than to face the shame of being arrested, ridiculed or punished.

After her death all her slaves were set free, some returned to their villages while some remained in Ibadan and Oyo. Efunsetan was a woman of great principle. She was also beautiful, wealthy and proud, which led to her destruction.


Igala (Kogi State)

The Legend of Inikpi oma ufedu ata (The war between the Jukun and Igala)In the 17th
century, there was a king called Abutu Eje who ruled the Igala people. There was a great war between the Jukun and the Igala people. The Jukun nearlycaptured the whole Igala people to the extent that the Ata of Igala was forced to go and consult the Oracle (Ifa). The Oracle then revealed to the Ata that the war was going to claim the whole of Igala land and that the Jukun were going to win the battle, which would wipe out the Igalas out of existence.

The king was worried and asked the Ifa priest what could be done to stop the Jukuns from wiping out the Igalas out of existence and how to win the battle. The Ifa priest said it would involve a sacrifice of human life. A virgin girl was to be scarificed and was advised to send some armed men to guide the river bank; because the people from the other side would surely cross the river and by the time they get to the river they would like to drink water. By so doing, they would pick up brooms by the river bank and start sweeping until they were all surrounded by the Igala army, otherwise, the Igalas would be wiped out. The Ata accepted it, without knowing who was going to be involved. He asked a question: from where would the virgin girl come? The Ifa priest told him that the virgin girl was his only beloved daughter Inikpi fondly called (Inikpi oma ufedu Ata).

When the king (Abutu Eje) came back from the Ifa priest, he looked disturbed and worried. He called his daughter for three good times, but could not tell her anything. Then the daughter came to him by herself and asked him what the problem was. But he refused to tell her. She said to her father, did the oracle choose me to perform the sacrifice? The father answered her by saying that the oracle wanted her to be buried alive.She then told her father that it was not a big problem, but she would need ten of Jukun able-bodied men to be laid down before she could be laid on top. The father accepted what she told him and did as she requested. On the third day, before daybreak a strange thing happened: Inikpi who was buried alive lying down was now standing as if she was made into a statue.


The highlight of this unit is that a legend is a history of the deeds of heroes. So, it may be concluded that legends are ancient traditional stories of heroes. Essentially, they are accounts of the exploits of heroes. The examples of legends from different parts of Nigeria presented above reveal that legends are found in different parts of Nigeria and they are stories about the deeds of heroes.


This unit dealt with legends. It explored the concept of a legend and highlighted its features. It also presented some examples of legends drawing from some geopolitical zones in Nigeria. It is hoped that they would enhance students’ understanding of legends.

Self Assessment Exercise

  1. List five legends in your community.
  2. Visit your community and find out and write about some legends.


  1.  What is a legend?
  2. What are the features of legends?
  3. Drawing from your culture, write about a legend.


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