Who Will Be The Next Ooni?

After the departure of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the race is now on to choose who it is that will be the worthy successor. At the moment, it is gathered that there are series of consultations going on amongst the ruling families and the kingmakers in line with the customs and tradition of the Ife people.

Oba Okunade Sijuwade

Oba Okunade Sijuwade

The four ruling houses in Ile-Ife are Lafodigo, Giesi, Ogboru and Osinkola. It seems that the council of Ife traditional chiefs might have narrowed down their choice of the new Ooni of Ife to the Lafodigo and Giesi ruling houses. It was gathered that each royal compound from the ruling houses was expected to submit a candidate from whom the kingmakers, including Obalufe and Lowa, in consultation with Ifa Oracle, would pick the most preferred candidate.From indications, it is going to be a keenly contested seat as over seven men are said to be eyeing the seat. The process is a complex mix of family politics, traditional rites and even government involvement. Sources say that royal compounds from Osinkola which produced late Oba Adesoji Aderemi and Ogboru which produced Ola Sijuwade Olubuse are already exempted from submitting names of candidates for succession.

By tradition, the Ooni is not just the king but also the spiritual leader. The stool of the Ooni is so sacred that whoever emerges at the end of the day becomes the Arole Oduduwa, more like the second in command to Oduduwa, the father of all Yoruba people. The Ooni after installation becomes the leader of the deities and the overall spiritual head of the entire Yoruba race, both at home and in the Diaspora.

A palace source said: “The members of Giesi Ruling house met on Saturday, August 15, 2015 at Akodi Agbedegbede (family house) in Ile-Ife. The meeting was well attended by hundreds of princes, princesses and elders of the royal lineage. The meeting, called only after the formal announcements by the Ife chiefs, was in respect to the laws and tradition of the royal families. Tributes were paid to the long and happy reign of Oba Alayeluwa Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II and prayers were said for the repose of his soul with his fore fathers.

“At this meeting, the elders of Giesi ruling house announced and affirmed that the time is now for the process of filling the gap created in the Kingship of Ile-Ife to commence.

“The legal process and content of the law that guides the selection of the Ooni was publicly presented to all the princes and princesses present.”

 The source also confirmed that the Geisi family has been approved to choose the next monarch from the family.

 He said: “First it was established that Giesi ruling house is set and in-turn to produce the next Ooni of Ile-Ife. Second, it was communicated as stated in the law, that 14 days from when the vacancy occurred, the ruling house is obliged to make a presentation of candidate(s) to the local government. Thereafter it was communicated that the basis of the selection will be from male children who are offspring of both male and female children of Giesi ruling house.”

The source who seems to be in favour of a particular candidate also said that the grandsons of Ooni Derin Ologbenla who ruled from 1880 are in strong contention. “An invitation was given to all interested princes of Giesi ruling house to obtain and complete the prescribed form, return the form to the family within the next couple of days after which they will be screened.

“Elders would then screen and select as many as they feel comfortable with. After screening, the names will be submitted to the Kingmakers within a period of 14 days from the vacancy of the stool. The Kingmakers make consultations with the oracle before forwarding their approved list to the local government. The emergence of the Ooni will depend on how quickly the oracle selects the appropriate occupier to be of the throne of Ife.”

This is the correct process and procedure and nobody is precluded. One of the prominent persons to look out for in this race is the great grandson of Ooni Derin Ologbenla, Oba Bankole Adewale Ojutalayo, the Laroka of Wankin, who over the last five years has worked judiciously in Ile-Ife to maintain peace, develop townships and was instrumental in the installation of a number of Obas within the Ife kingdom. Oba Bankole Adewale Ojutalayo was prominent in the council of Sookos contributing to the progress and development of that council,” the source said.

There is another who claims that he should be the next Ooni for a good reason. Rahmon Adedoyin claims that the late Ooni pointed him out as his successor. He said in an interview, “In Ile-Ife, historically, Ajagun, the late Ademiluyi, pointed to the late Adesoji Aderemi as his successor while he was still alive. Similarly, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, while alive, pointed to Prince Okunade Sijuwade then as his successor while alive. While Oba Okunade Sijuwade was alive, he pointed to myself,  Rahmon Adedoyin, as his successor.” 

However, not many take this theory seriously. New contenders have also arrived from the Ademiluyi part of the family and they also are vying for the position. From sources, those agitating to occupy the stool of Ooni are Prince Ademola Ademiluyi, an octogenarian, lawyer and astute businessman, Prince Adeyinka Ademiluyi, Prince Adegboyega Ademiluyi an oil magnate in his late sixties, Prince Adebambo Ademiluyi, Prince Kanmi Ademiluyi, and Prince Adetayo Oladele.

Out of these six contenders, it has been reliably gathered that Prince Kanmi Ademiluyi, who is said to be a close confidant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and close friend of Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is highly favoured. Prince Kanmi Ademiluyi, who was once an editor of a national newspaper, has age on his side as he is in his 50s.

But, if money would count in the selection of the next Ooni, Princes Ademola Ademiluyi, Yinka Ademiluyi and Gboyega Ademiluyi and Oladele may have to break the bank to impress the kingmakers. For instance, Prince Ademola Ademiluyi, though an octogenarian, is very wealthy and close to many Nigerian billionaires.

The same thing goes for Gboyega Ademiluyi who is into oil and gas. Prince Ademola Ademiluyi was once the legal Secretary of the defunct National Electric Power Authority and is a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club, the Island Club and the Evergreen Board Members.

For Prince Gboyega Ademiluyi, he is in his late 60s, an ex-Gregorian, a highly successful businessman, ex-executive of major oil companies and a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club. Prince Adebambo Ademiluyi is also in his mid 60s and he attended Kings College, Lagos. He is also a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club.

However, a youth group in Ile-Ife,  the Cradle Youths, had last week reiterated that the guidelines and traditions must be adhered to when issues like this occur.

Its representative, Kunle Elusayo, maintained that the Ife Traditional Council and kingmakers have customary law regulating the selection of who becomes the next Ooni.

Elusayo added: “The traditional council is in the right position to say anything concerning the status of the Ooni. People should wait and respect the position of our tradition, history will not forgive anyone that betrays our tradition and law. The declaration made under Section 4 (2) of the Chief Law 1957 of Customary Law Regulating the selection the Ooni of Ife should be followed strictly.”

The declaration, he said, was made on September 14, 1979, approved on January 20, 1980 and registered on January 26, 1980.

He appealed to Obalufe and Lowa through consultations with right and left Chiefs and kingmakers to allow the declaration to reign.

The declaration reads in part: “There are four ruling houses which have the right to provide candidate for the Ooni chieftaincy, and the identity of each of such ruling houses and order of rotation is as follows: Osinkola Ruling House which produced late Oba Adesoji Aderemi; Ogbooru Ruling House which produced Oba Sijuwade Okunade II; Giesi Ruling House and Lafogido Ruling House.

“The family whose turn  it is to provide a candidate shall be invited in writing to present their candidate or candidates from among whom the kingmakers shall select the most suitable person.”

The Olumobi royal family of Lafogido ruling house has warned against distortion of facts about the history, tradition and culture of the ancient town of Ile-Ife.

The royal family maintained that possession of material wealth or political influence by aspirants to the throne should not be placed above the traditional rights of those described as the true princes of Ile-Ife royal dynasties.

The spokesman of the royal family, Prince Adedimeji Dauda Adefioye, stated that values of integrity, rich cultural knowledge and strong relationship and affinity with the people of the town and the Yoruba race in general should be accorded priority.

Adefioye, noted that the royal family deserves the right to present the new Ooni of Ife more than two centuries after the last ruler from the lineage had reined. He said the late Olumobi, who is the progenitor of the Olumobi Compound of Lafigido Ruling House had reigned as the 22nd Ooni of Ife, just after the reign of Luwoo, regarded as the only female Ooni and the town’s 21st monarch.

Also speaking in the same vein, Prince Adewale Adewuyi from Ogbooru m’olodo from Lami royal compound in Ilode, Ile-Ife, said traditions and histories are too sacrosanct to be altered, warning against distortion of facts about the selection processes.

He also warned the contenders to do away with campaign of calumny saying “we have identified some groups of people and individuals that are indigenes of Ile-Ife who have clandestinely embarked on a mission to distort the history, custom and the tradition of our fatherland but the custodians of our history should not be discouraged.”

He said such people had even been parading themselves as the anointed candidates for the throne, even before the official announcement of the late Ooni’s passage to the life beyond.

“Such people must be watched very carefully, because their actions do not conform with our custom and traditions and they seem to be too ambitious to serve the Yoruba race,” he added.

He urged the traditional council and kingmakers to be fair and just throughout the selection process and consider the future of the black race over and above the immediate gain.

Prince Sikiru Ayedun from Giesi ruling house and former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Osun State also said that  the Ooni stool is not for sale adding that there are certain regulations and processes that must be followed, stressing that such insinuation about the selection processes is unwarranted from any quarters.

While expressing confidence in the Ife Traditional Council and kingmakers that it would be upright and just in handling the selection process, Ayedu faulted the claim that late Oba Sijuwade had already known his successor before his demise, describing it as untrue.

Despite all the traditional process, one cannot remove regional and state politics from the process. Besides the Tinubu factor, there are other top politicians who are also trying to have a say in the process.

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, earlier in the week warned the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to steer clear from the process towards the selection of the next Ooni of Ife.
George is also a bigwig in the Yoruba hierarchy. He is the Atona Oodua of Yoruba land. In an interview, he warned Tinubu against using his close relationship with the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, to manipulate the process.

According to the PDP chieftain, Tinubu ought to have learnt his lesson from the recent National Assembly crisis. He said: “He will be making attempts to manipulate the process. They will do politics with it but it will blow up. They should allow the kingmakers to do their work. If he manipulates the process, he will create a huge problem in Yoruba land. Let him allow the kingmakers to do their job. He should not set Yoruba land on fire. Aregbesola should, instead, focus on paying salaries.”
When asked to react to the late Ooni’s closeness to former President Goodluck Jonathan, George said it had nothing to do with the process of the emergence of a king, which is a sacred process. He also said the politics of Ife was not like that of Lagos, hence, Tinubu should not set a bad precedence in Yoruba land. 

“He (Tinubu) tried it at the National Assembly but came back with a slap. He should, therefore, not go out of his way to bring in an APC-inclined man as the next Ooni. We want an Ooni that will be fair and not connected with all these politicians.
“We need an experienced person. We want the person that the kingmakers will approve of. As the Atona Oodua, I know how these things are done,” he said.

The process is still on-going and for now there is no clear choice of who is going to be the next Ooni. The key players are lining up and the final decision will surely not be a hasty one. The world is watching and the Yourba people are waiting for their next Arole Oduduwa.

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