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Ife sacred monarchy, Ooni’s royalty and Yoruba culture

Ife sacred monarchy, Ooni’s royalty and Yoruba culture
January 31
20:40 2022

Kabiyesi Oonirisa, Arole Oduduwa Adimula
Mo yika otun, mo yi ka osi.
Mo fori bale fun ori ade. Ki ade pe lori.
Ki bata pe le se. Ki iru kere ki o di okini.
Ki ase pe lenu, ki e pe! pe! pe! pe!

The panegyric above briefly underscores the ancestral glory, authority and honour of the Yoruba Oba, especially the Ooni of Ife who is historically the foremost monarch in human history. Yoruba monarchs, from time immemorial, command profound respect from both native and non-native speakers of the Yoruba language.

They are grassroots authorities with deep knowledge of their respective environments. There are cultural protocols of paying obeisances to Yoruba monarchs and no person of Yoruba extraction, including visitors to the king’s palace, can ignore the protocols and culture requiring homage to the monarchs by greeting the Oba without prostrating. To do so is to commit a taboo and sacrilege on the path of Yoruba culture and tradition. This is due to the incontrovertible fact that paying homage to the king is different from greeting an ordinary mortal.

The Yoruba tradition demands that the man must prostrate to greet the king while the woman must be on her knees to honour the King. This is not all, the word of the king is a law. The king is regarded as second to Almighty God in the Yoruba’s hierarchy of spiritual and physical authority (Alase ekeji Orisa). Even, wives of the king in Yorubaland are forbidden from looking the king in the face, not to talk of raising a voice against the exalted monarch.

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But the recent happenings in the House of Oduduwa, especially the loudly-voiced divorce notice by Olori Naomi Silekunola, former wife of Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, really cast a slur on the pedigree and ancestral sacredness of the Ife monarchy. This avoidable development has dealt a fatal blow on the revered royal throne of Ife in particular and incalculable damage to Yoruba culture and tradition in general.

Never in the annals of Yoruba history has such incalculable damage, embarrassment and humiliation been handed down on a lesser king, let alone the Ooni of Ife by an estranged wife who ought not to talk to any living mortal about the Kabiyesi. Besides, in the event of any trouble in the palace, she is expected to simply walk away from the royal house and live quietly in a far distance from the palace.

To make matter worse, Naomi, in an unprecedented manner and two days to Christmas (December 23, 20121), announced her separation from the Ooni of Ife through her verified Instagram handle and Facebook page. That is unheard of in any royal palace in Yorubaland.

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The Yoruba king is not a one-wife monarch, he has every grace to marry many wives and divorce any queen that is disrespectful or unworthy and not the other way round where the queen announced her separation from the king on the social media, not minding that the revered king did not marry Naomi through social media in October 2018.

In another gesture of desecration of the royal throne, the ex-Olori then proceeded to say many unprintable words against the revered monarch and affirmed certain words that would continue to hurt her and the innocent product of the three years association; Tadenikawo.

For instance, it is against Yoruba custom and common sense for Naomi to say this about Ooni of Ife: “I did my best to endure and make it (marriage) work; many times, I smiled through the struggle, but I have finally realised I had just one assignment, my son, and when God is done, He is done. He chose Saul to be king, and when He was done, He told the prophet Samuel I have moved on”.

Not done, she went to the gutters in a description of the monarch thus: “His Majesty has a picture he would love the world to see and perceive him as and another one which is his true self. Today I announce the beginning of a new dawn and the close of a chapter”.

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This is a serious taboo and it seems the ex-queen did not realize that there is no perfect marriage anywhere. Husbands and wives quarrel time and time again. Every stable marriage is a harvest of tremendous sacrifices by the two parties involved in it. It is certain that those who wrote the divorce notice for Naomi did not think of the repercussion and the long-term effect of putting domestic issues on social media. The social media was agog, as different bloggers feasted on the scandal and used their platforms to conjure spurious claims about the monarch and the royal palace.

In a bid to outshine others, some of the bloggers who are based in other countries like Canada, the United States and other European countries began a campaign of calumny against the monarch, his three sisters, and Iyalaje Oodua, Toyin Kolade. These are bloggers that relied heavily on secondary sources to get their reports and are not restrained from dishing out rumours, hearsay and what did not transpire in the palace. Some even went ahead to release voice notes of individuals that predated the social media divorce notice by Naomi.

In all sincerity, Naomi was totally misadvised and uncouth in voicing her perceived irreconcilable differences with the Ooni to the whole world through social media. Regrettably, the post is still on her verified Instagram page handle and yet to be pulled down.

What remains a mystery to discernible minds was what could have gone wrong between the king and his ex-queen within three months leading to the divorce notice on December 23, 2021. It would be recalled that the Ooni of Ife celebrated his 47th birthday on October 17, 2021, with pomp and circumstance while Naomi was very active as a faithful wife with sonorous songs to eulogise the king.

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She praised the monarch to the heavens during the ceremony, saying that the king has been good to her as she could not repay the king with all his good gestures. And the king was beaming with smiles, appreciating his wife for the lavish praises showered on him. Some of the praise songs in Yoruba went thus:

E se gan ni, e ku itoju mi, mo more;
Ona o pe mi po, emi ko le san tan,
Baba alanu mi, e ma se o…“.

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But the bubble scandalously burst on December 23, 2021, when Naomi suddenly said she was done with the marriage. It is instructive to note that the Ooni of Ife is yet to make any categorical statement on what really went wrong while he has continued to perform his activities, including his assistance to the less- privileged and philanthropic gestures.

It is also important to state that, the Ife Royal Palace and indeed all palaces in Yorubaland are not places any Tom, Dick and Harry can enter. There are certain areas in the palace that the uninitiated dare not venture into. This writer recalled an unfortunate tragedy in Ife Palace, a couple of years back when during the celebration of the Olojo festival an intimate friend of the then Ooni of Ife, the late Oba Sijuwade Okunade, ventured into a restricted area in the palace. The man, popularly known as Gulderman and clearly uninitiated, mistakenly bumped into a restricted area in the palace to see the king where the latter was performing certain rites with the deities. The king’s friend reportedly collapsed and later passed on. Such is the awesome power the royal palace possess and command; certain areas are not for ordinal mortals.

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In the same way, women should be placed in their cultural places in the palace and no Olori should be pampered to the point of dragging the cherished culture of Yorubaland to the mud as Naomi has done. The Yoruba monarchy and Ife royalty remain the envy of the world and every effort should be made to sustain their primal values.

It is necessary to remind the Ooni of Ife and our traditional rulers of the need to always do the needful and consult the oracle widely before marrying wives and other activities like their forefathers. They must go back to the basics and preserve the cultural artefacts for posterity. The royal fathers must ensure that social media divorce should not be allowed to rear its head in any part of their kingdoms.

Concerted efforts must also be made by stakeholders to safeguard our rich cultural heritage. They must ensure that peace and progress thrive in their kingdoms as they remain the source of pride to their subjects.

Amokeodo, a journalist and media consultant, writes in from Abuja



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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