Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was conspicuously absent yesterday at the funeral service for the departed Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse 11, which had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo leading the dignitaries at the occasion.
Secretary to Osun State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, represented the governor and declared that he was “necessarily absent” because he was summoned to Lagos for a very crucial meeting.
Dignitaries at the occasion include former military governor of the old Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo, Chief Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, representing the Obafemi Awolowo dynasty, General Alani Akinrinade, the Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Professor Bamitale Omole, representative of Ogun State, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, former Osun State Deputy Governor, Sooko Adeleke Adewoyin, Chief Dele Momodu and Ondo State Governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko.
Others are Senator Jide Omoworare; Osun State Deputy Speaker, Hon. Akintunde Adegboye; Chief of Staff to Governor Aregbesola, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola; Rear Admiral Akin Aduwo, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Hon. Niyi Owolade, Mrs. Tola Oyediran, Oluomo of Ife, Gbenga Owolabi, Alhaji Saka Awojoju, among others.
Governor Aregbesola’s absence at Ooni’s public rites of passage befuddled the audience which was surprised at hearing that any meeting more important could take him away from the funeral rites of the late Ooni.
People were heard discussing the governor’s absence in hushed tones. A lot of people believed that the governor, given his position as the leader of the state, was to be the official host to several government dignitaries and other high profile personalities that graced the occasion.
There were, however, people who believed that Aregbesola’s absence, if deliberate, was a good decision, given recent happenings in the state.
Considering that the governor has been fighting series of battles regarding his administration of the state, some of the worried audience believed that he may have decided to stay off to avoid a situation where political opponents and other antagonists might want to launch an open attack on him. It was said that his absence was better than causing a stir that could upset an occasion that was planned as a sober departure ceremony for the revered monarch.
Funeral Without Corpse
The final funeral service for the departed Ooni Olubuse II took place at the frontage of the ancient palace of Ile where hundreds of dignitaries, including Vice President Osinbajo, converged to pay their respects to the foremost traditional ruler in Yorubaland.
The interdenominational funeral service kicked off around 9 a.m. when clerics of both the Christian and Islamic faiths as well as traditionalists prayed for the repose of the soul of the departed monarch.
Unlike the conventional burial rites, the casket for the corpse of the late Ooni was not displayed at the funeral service.
This is because in Yorubaland, South-west part of Nigeria, a traditional ruler does not die, he only transits on a journey to join his ancestors.
The moment a king dies, more so, in Ife which is described as the Cradle of Yoruba, his immediate family is required to hand over his body to a traditional “cult” – a religious secret society – which will immediately begin the necessary rites.
The traditional activities of the burial would remain secret.
Reverend Olusola Akanbi, who is also the Dean of Ife Diocese of Anglican Church, in his sermon with the theme: “How Are The Mighty Fallen”, quoted from the Holy Book of Bible, the Second Samuel 1:19.
Reverend Akanbi told the large gathering that the sermon was not for Ooni who slept alone, but for everyone at the programme.
He said that life had a beginning and an end, adding that whatever that has beginning must have an end.
The cleric noted that Oba Sijuwade Olubuse had come, seen and conquered. He said the Ooni had done his bit for the society, declaring that everyone must account for his action.
The cleric admonished Nigerians to make their indelible contribution to the society in whatever position they found themselves. He appealed to the Ife people and Yorubas not to despair because of the demise of the monarch.
The Islamic cleric, Sheik Muktah Adedeji Balogun, cautioned everyone to watch his or her deeds and actions because of the inevitable end.
He said that the late Ooni made people smile and happy, admonishing everyone to emulate his actions.
In the traditional charges, Ogbeni Ifaloba Ifagbenro, said there was no regret over Ooni because he was good to the people of Ife.
He prayed that the people of Ife should continue to have peace.
President Muhammadu Buhari was also absent at the ceremony but he mourned with the whole country.
Buhari in statement said that Ooni’s place in Nigeria’s history was assured and the nation would long celebrate the monarch.
Speaking at the occasion, Vice President Osibajo noted that Ooni was not dead but just transformed to the great beyond.
He said: “We are not mourning but we are celebrating him because of the good works he has done for the development and growth of the country”.
Professor Osinbajo described the late Ooni as the symbol of unity and custodian of Yoruba race.
He stated that late Oba Sijuwade tried to unite the people of the Yoruba race during his life-time, adding that he lived a fulfilled and exemplary life.
The Vice President, however, charged the successor of the Ooni Sijuwade to emulate his good works and promote his good legacies.
While speaking, Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was represented by his Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, said that Oba Sijuwade ruled with the fear of God.
Aregbesola noted that he was a pacesetter during his lifetime as he led the state Council of Traditional Rulers with sincerity, saying he would continue to be celebrated even in death.
According to Aregbesola, Ooni committed the state to God before his departure. His contribution within and outside Nigeria to Yoruba culture was immeasurable and so cannot be forgotten.
Aregbesola prayed for the repose of the soul of the Ooni and for God to grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Adetokunbo Sijuwade, son of the late Ooni, gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the family and thanked the state government and the people of Ife and Osun in general for their support.