Tuesday, July 28, 2015 will continue to linger for sometime to come in the minds of residents of the ancient town of Ile-Ife, in Osun State.
It was the day news of the demise of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, was broken by the media.
On that day too, members of the Ife Traditional Council started the struggle to convince Nigerians and the world that Kabiyesi was not only still among the living in flesh and blood, but hale and healthy.
The foremost Yoruba traditional ruler was said to have passed on to the great beyond at Saint Mary’s Hospital in the United Kingdom, after battling with a protracted illness that necessitated his being rushed overseas aboard an air ambulance.
The news break, helped particularly by such new media platforms as Twitter and Facebook from the night of Tuesday, July 27, shocked traditionalists and chiefs of Ile-Ife who considered it as abominable to the Yoruba tradition and culture for a third party source, like the media to break such news to the public without certain rituals and sacrifices being undertaken before a monarch of such status is prounced as having joined his ancestors.
According to Yoruba tradition and in particular Ile-Ife, only the traditional council is empowered to announce the demise of a monarch and present the successor to the appointing authority, in this case, the State Governor.
This scenario it would be recalled played out when the demise of the predecessor of Olubuse II, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, was announced on the floor of the Old Oyo State House of Assembly by the then governor, Chief Bola Ige.
His action reportedly drew the ire of the Ife Traditional Council which protested that it was their responsibility to make such announcement according to tradition. It was perhaps to stave off another attempt to erode its powers that the Ife Traditional Council had repeatedly denied the demise of the Ooni for about two weeks, while castigating the media outrightly for its roles this time around.
Amidst the spirited denials by the Traditional Council of the Ooni‘s demise, certain rites and traditional sacrifices continued, to appease the deities and ward off perceived consequencies of the unapproved announcement of the Ooni‘s transition without performing the necessary rites.
As if to worsen an already bad case, the unrepentant news hounds, continued to inundate Nigerians and the world with almost a daily report of preparations for Oba Sijuade‘s rites of passage. These included the activities of the various traditionalists, including the Oro and the relocation of the Ooni‘s immediate family, because of the norm that when the announcement of his transition is made, all persons and property within the palace would automatically transmit to the next occupant of the stool as Oonirisa.
After several denials, the demise of Oba Sijuade, the 50th Ooni of Ife at the age of 85, was formally proclaimed last Wednesday, following which trees in the town were felled, while markets and public places were ordered closed for a seven-day mourning period.
Oba Sijuade‘s first son, Prince Adetokunbo, led some traditional rulers and chiefs of the kingdom to Governor Rauf Aregbesola at the Oke-Fia Government House, Osogbo.
At the meeting, Aregbesola read the text message he received from the Ooni, a day before news of his demise filtered in: His Excellency, I’m still not feeling good, so I am travelling abroad for medical check up of my body therefore I place your government under God‘s guidance“.
The governor, who said that the message was touching, described the late traditional ruler as a great man and bridge builder, recalling that: “This was the last conversation I had with the late monarch; we dearly miss his charisma, demonstration of loyalty and his position as a rallying point for all Yoruba people and a bridge builder across all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
“Indeed, he was a great man and he left an indelible mark on the sand of history, not only in Yorubaland, Nigeria but across the world,“ the governor said.
Following the official announcement, there was a special Oro Diety procession in the streets of Ile-Ife and its environs, warning residents in the town to stay indoors. The procession, marked the final passage of the Ooni, and as residents were warned, the traditional filial has no respect for gender, hence the need to comply with the directive.
A visit to Ile-Ife by our correspondet revealed that virtually all residents of the town complied with the restriction order as the Oro procession, which kicked off few minutes to 10am that Wednesday moved round the town. Banks, schools and other public institutions were closed, while streets in the town were deserted.
From the Ooni‘s palace, the procession, comprising nine people, mainly members of Isoro Cult, left for other parts of the town at about 9:45 am.
Just as the the procession was leaving Ile Oodua, trees within the palace premises were being cut by another batch of traditionalists before formal announcement of Ooni‘s passage would be made.
Newsmen, who had gathered at the entrance of the palace were dispersed shortly before the Oro procession started.
The Mock Oro
At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, students of the institution remained on campus even as they undertook a mock Oro Festival round their halls of residence. The management had already declared lecture-free day for the students to ensure the students stayed indoors in compliance with the restriction order in Ife and its environ.
Though there was no vehicular movement on the campus, the male undergraduates residing in Awolowo Hall, made a prototype of the Oro Festival which they described as part of their rite of passage for the late Oba Sijuade.
The students dressed in white gown, marched with red veil and armed with bells and gong chanted occultic songs round the campus. They also carried objects like carton, wood and teddy that served as fetish ingridients for the “rites.“
With a large crowd, the mock “Oro worshipers“ visited all the halls of residence on campus while students took photograph of them with thrill and excitement.
Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II was born on the 1st of January, 1930 to Prince Adereti Sijuwade, the son of Oba Sijuwade Adelekan, Olubuse I from the Ogboru ruling house.
When the little Okunade Sijuwade was born, it was predicted that he would become the Oba of Ile-Ife which informed the respect he earned within the family even as a little boy.
Prince Okunade Sijuwade as he then was, started his elementary education at Igbein School, Abeokuta, Ogun State, an institution owned by the CMS mission. He lived with his other brothers under the care of their father’s friend, Chief G. A. Adedayo, then Secretary to the Egba Traditional Council.
After his elementary school education he enrolled at Abeokuta Grammar School, under the well-known educationist, Reverend I. O. Ransome Kuti, principal of the school.
He left Abeokuta Grammar School after five years and returned home, transfering to Oduduwa College in Ile-Ife to complete his secondary studies.
On his first day at school, mistaken for one of the new teachers and in no hurry to correct the impression, young Sijuwade took over the class in which he was supposed to be a student.
In spite of his royal posturing and youthful pranks, Prince Sijuwade is remembered by many of his classmates as a particularly diligent student and quite mature for his age.
Because of his relative access to luxury and wealth, Prince Sijuwade was able to acquire many good things of life, especially clothes.
After leaving Oduduwa College, the young prince joined his father’s business for about three years after which the elder Sijuwade, convinced that his son had acquired sufficient on-the-job training, decided he should proceed for a course of study overseas.
He joined African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) publishers of Nigerian Tribune titles as a sales executive where he was for about three years before proceeding to the United Kingdom in the early 50s to undertake a course in Business Management.
His training was essentially in Northampton and with the Leventis Group in Manchester in 1957. He also participated in Advanced Business Management Training Programmes with companies in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel. He returned to Nigeria a few years later to launch a career in business.
Early in his career, as a hardworking young man he decided he could do with no more than four hours sleep which complemented his success, this he maintained even on the throne of his fathers.
Shortly after Prince Sijuwade returned to Nigeria, he was appointed the Sales Manager of Leventis Motors in Western Nigeria with its headquarters in Ibadan, now capital of Oyo State. By 1960, when Nigeria became an independent nation, Prince Sijuwade became an adviser to the Leventis Group.
Oba Okunade had chains of investment all over the globe and was flourishing in business when his predecessor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi joined his ancestors in 1980.
According to the late Ooni, he was promptly called by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo that he should return to Nigeria immediately because the stool was for him.
The successful businessman initially refused, because he was not favourably disposed to coming to Nigeria where nothing works and with no basic infrastructure in place, he felt it would amount to suffering if he decided to take the offer.
But he was prevailed upon to accept the offer which he did reluctantly, but was surprised that there were other contenders who thereafter stepped down for him to fulfill the earlier prophesy.
He ascended the throne of his fathers on December 6, 1980 and his reign witnessed tremendous transformation in the ancient city.
Besides, Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba kingdom assumed its rightful position in the world with visits to the Yoruba tribe of Brazil, Cuba and other nations where members of the tribe are found.
It was reported that the visit of Oba Sijuwade to Cuba after a long period of drought witnessed unprecedented miracle of showers of rain after his royal blessing on the land.
He installed and crowned some community heads and raised the status of some from Baale to Oba while some that are known to be chiefs in the ancient city of Ife were elevated to the status of Oba with supportive history from the monarch. This includes the Obalufe, Oba Laaye and Obaloran, Obajio, Lowa, all of different quarters in Ile-Ife.
However, his reign witnessed a war that brought sanity between the Source Ile-Ife and its neigbour, Modakeke. Oba Okunade have come, seen and indeed conquered.
There are four ruling houses in Ile-Ife among which the throne is being rotated. While Oba Okunade Sijuwade was from the Ogbooru ruling house and his erstwhile predecessor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi from Osinkola house, members of the remaining ruling houses namely Giesi and Lafogido are potential successors to the throne.
Even before the official pronouncement of the demise of Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II last Wednesday, there had been speculations that the Ademiluyi branch of the Giesi ruling house was already warming up to clinch the exalted throne.
It was further gathered that in each ruling house, there are about six to seven ruling compounds with right to the throne.
Among prominent contenders thrown up by speculators so far are: Princes Ademola; Yinka; Adebanbo; Gboyega; and Kanmi.
Meanwhile, the Ife Traditional Council has been urged to ensure that the selection of the successor to Oba Sijuwade, Olubuse II, follows the 1979 Declaration.
A group tagged: the Cradle Youths appealed to the Obalufe, Oba Solomon Omisakin and Lowa of Ife, Oba Joseph Ijaodola to consult with kingmakers on the selection process to comply with the 1979 declaration by asking the family whose turn is to provide a candidate or candidates from among whom the kingmakers shall select the most suitable person.
The declaration made under section 4 (2) of the Chief Law 1957 of Customary Law Regulating the selection the Ooni of Ife was made on September 14, 1979; and approved on January 20, 1980 and registered six days after.