SUPREMACY OF THE OONI OF IFE

BY PRINCE JOHNSON ADETUNMBI ADEMILUYI

(DIPLOMA – YabaTech, FCMA-uk, FCA)

 

REFERENCES:

1. Extracts from Government Gazette of 28th February 1903 by the Late Governor of Ogun State Chief Victor Olabisi Onabanjo – “Ayekooto” (First published in his life time and post humously published again in Nigerian Tribune of Saturday 25th April 2009).

The Troubled House of Odu’a

What is all this fuss about the hierarchy in the land of Oduduwa, if I may ask? I read of two abortive attempts to settle the confusion. Now, the dissident group will be ostracized by other sons of Odu’a and their sympathizers from Wadai. A boycott will hurt, very much so; but will it resolve the real issue? There can be no order until the obas return to the path of truth.

For the moment, let me turn over to you, extracts from the Government Gazette of 28 February, 1903, revealed that there was a dispute between the Akarigbo of Sagamu and the Elepe of Epe as to the latter’s right to wear a crown. The then governor, Sir William Macgregor, sent his special hammock to Ooni Olubuse I (father of the present Ooni), to carry him from Ife to Ibadan from where he took a train to Lagos. At the council meeting, Sir Macgregor told the Ooni that “he had received a telegram from the Alake of Abeokuta who requested to be advised of the time the Ooni was leaving Lagos for Ife. The Alake expressed a desire to arrange to meet the Ooni outside the walls of Abeokuta in order to pay him respect.”

Ooni’s Power

The governor then informed the council of the purpose of the meeting – “the crown case of Elepe of Epe.”

The Gazette continues: “But before introducing this question, His Excellency informed the council that he had heard with great sorrow that the town of Ogbomoso was burnt and that 60 persons, including the Lemomu, perished in the conflagration. The governor had sent to the Baale to express his sorrow and also 100 pounds for distribution among the people in their distress.”

Having heard the main question, the Ooni was reported in the Gazette as saying: “A man should speak only what he knows to be true. Only the Akarigbo and the Awujale have the right to wear crowns; even if the Akarigbo is a chicken, he is the head of his government and is entitled to wear a crown”. But the Akarigbo and the Awujale had their crowns originally from Ife. I had only been a few days as Ooni before the present Akarigbo was installed. To knock out the claim of Elepe, the Ooni went on. Besides Akarigbo and the Awujale, I do not know of the rights of anyone else in Ijebu to wear a crown. No one on the face of the earth has power to give the Elepe of Epe a crown, unless the Ooni of Ife. Even the Alake of Abeokuta has not this power.

THE ALAKE OF ABEOKUTA AND THE ALAAFIN OF OYO HAD THEIR CROWNS ORIGINALLY FROM THE OONI OF IFE”.

The following are the rulers to whom crowns have been given by the Ooni of Ife:

“The Alake of Abeokuta, the Olowu of Owu (Abeokuta), the Alaafin of Oyo, the Oba Ado, the Osemawe of Ondo, the Awujale of Ode (Ijebu), the Alara of Ara, the Ajero of Ijero, the Orangun of IIa, the Owa of Ilesa, the Alaye of Efon, the Ore of Olure, the Akarigbo of Remo (Ijebu), the Alaketu of Ketu, the Elekole of Ikole, the Olowo of Owo, the Ewi of Ado, the Oloko of Oko (Abeokuta) the Alagura of Agura (Abeokuta)”.

This piece settles a number of issues which the sons of Odu’a must now reconcile in present day events in Odu’a land. Well, the Gazette goes on: “The Ooni further explained that on the occasion of original assignment of a crown, a fee of 50 pounds (then one hundred naira) at least was paid to the Ooni of Ife. This fee was demanded only from the first ruler of the territory for which the crown was assigned. His successors are not again called upon to pay the fee. “But each new ruler on succeeding his father is required to announce his assumption of the crown to Ife, and at the same time to send presents and offerings for an auspicious reign.”

Some great rulers, for example, the Alaafin of Oyo on succeeding to the crown, paid over again and the fee due to the Ooni of Ife. The Ooni also stated that some rulers sent him annual presents, and he showed the council the horse-tailed staff which was sent to him by the Alaafin of Oyo”. The last ruler that paid for his crown to the Ooni of Ife, was the Akarigbo of Sagamu.”

The governor asked the Ooni whether the Elepe could be permitted to wear a crown if he now paid the 50 pounds. The Ooni replied that all crowns are hereditary and that a man could not wear a crown. The power vested in the Ooni of Ife was to confirm the title to the right. All crowns are hereditary. There was in 1931 another dispute, this time it was over the seniority of the Ooni over the other obas and chiefs and there was also the issue of seniority as between the Alaafin (then called the Oloyo) and Oba of Benin (then called Oba Ado). The senior district officer, Captain HLM Butcher, sent minutes to the then commissioner, Western Province, in which he said, among other things:

“I have discussed this with several chiefs and old men in various places and the evidence seems to me to show clearly that the Ooni of Ife is the leading Yoruba chief.

CAPTAIN BUTCHER ALSO TOLD US: “THE OBA OF BENIN CALLED OBA ADO IS THE SECOND, WITH THE ALAAFIN CALLED OLOYO THE THIRD.”

He added for good measure, there is no definite order of precedence for the other obas… I have never heard that the Oba of Benin recognized the suzerainty of the Alaafin 300 or 400 years ago. I can see no reason why he should, as he was nearly always, be the more powerful of the two.” You can interpret or misinterpret these extracts, but the truth is contained in them.

2. Extracts from Ooni of Ife in Yoruba History by Dele Awoyinfa 1992 (Pages 67-71)

On the 23 February, 1903, the Ooni of Ife travelled to Lagos at the invitation of Governor William Macgregor and was lodged in a mansion at Tinubu Square, Lagos. On the following day, the governor met the Ooni of Ife and informed him that the purpose of the invitation was to have direct evidence from the Ooni of Ife as to who among the Obas of Yorubaland were entitled to wear a crown. The Ooni was scheduled to address the newly constituted Native Council which was divided on the issue as to whether a particular Chief at Ijebu was entitled to wear a crown. The Ooni’s statement of tradition was preceded by the customary greetings which included this passage from the Government Gazette of 28 February 1903.

The Ooni of Ife also said that it was only out of respect for his friend the Governor that he had broken through the tradition of the country and had come all the distance. Kabiyesi, the Ooni added that the other chiefs, when they heard of his departure from Ile-Ife, left their palaces and were living outside the walls and there they would remain until the returned, even the Alaafin of Oyo was now living outside the palace. The above was good example of rigid observation of traditional protocol by the Obas of Yorubaland who regarded themselves as the sons of Oduduwa (the Ooni of Ife). What it amounted to in tradition was the silent message of the governor in Lagos, that none of them would cooperate with him until their father returned safely to Ile-Ife. Living outside the palace, meant that life in the whole community was paralyzed. If an Oba for reason of tradition, had to stay outside his palace, all his chiefs and his Baales in the villages would do the same thing and all the Arabas (Chief Priests) would be busy making sacrifices to the 201 gods of Yoruba tradition. All markets in the towns and villages would cease to function normally.

The return of the Ooni would be greeted by gun salutes and jollification throughout the empire, all markets will resume normal commercial activities and each monarch will travel to Ife to pay homage and act as communication link between the subjects of each Kingdom and the Ooni, as to what transpired in Lagos. Governor Macgregor acceded to the request of the Ooni that no member of the native council could behold him face to face during the meeting and so, it was the voice of the Ooni that the meeting heard, as no inferior monarch or subject could behold the countenance of the Ooni without unpleasant consequences. After giving the names of those entitled to wear beaded crown, the following testimonies by members of the council were recorded at page 167 of the Government Gazette of 28 February 1903.

1. Kasumu Giwa: Our fathers have told us that the Ooni of Ife has the power to issue crowns to the rulers of Yoruba.

2. Sufianu: If a crown does not come from Ife it is a worthless thing.

3. Sunmonu Bashorun: It is the Ooni who gives crowns to all the rulers.

4. Oshonisi: (Chief native doctor): We cannot go beyond the Ooni’s statement.

5. Bale of Ebute-Metta (Egba): I stand by what the Ooni says.

6. Seidu Olowu: It is a truth widely known in Yoruba that the Ooni gives crowns. I am on the side of Ooni.

7. Ogbogun: It is well known that only the Ooni can issue crowns. Ife is the cradle of our race. All power and authority come from Ife.

8. Brimah Edu: If the Ooni had not come, we would all have talked nonsense.

9. Chief Musa Bababiokun: I agree with the Ooni in all what he said.

10. Chief Ashogbon: I agree with the Ooni.

11. Chief Soenu: All the rulers in Yoruba have their crowns from the Ooni.

12. Chief Ojora: It is a wonderful thing to see the Ooni at Lagos, Ooni is right.

13. Chief Aromire: His Excellency has done a great thing in bringing the Ooni down to Lagos. This is a wonderful thing. We never expected it, the Ooni is our greatest authority on the subject.

14. Chief Obanikoro: The Ooni has told us many important things today, which we never knew before. The Ooni is the only authority on the subject and we abide by his decision.

15. Chief Eletu: We are much thankful to the Governor for inviting the Ooni of Ife to Lagos.

On 20th July 1903, government minute from Ibadan confirmed that “The power of the Ooni to confer crowns is universal and unique in Yorubaland”. In 1984, the late Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Moses Awolesi Erinwole II, received the present Ooni of Ife, the Arole of Oduduwa, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, in his palace at Sagamu. In his welcome address, the Akarigbo who was over 90 years old at the time, declared that Oba Sijuwade who was considerably younger, was his father. He told his people that his father had arrived “Baba ti de”. In 1932, by a letter dated August 11, the then Awujale of Ijebuland wrote to the Ooni of Ife referring to him as “Dear father” and a most cordial reply of 17 October 1932 from the Ooni referred to the Awujale as “My dear son”.

In 1937, the first conference of all Obas of Yorubaland held at Oyo, The Ooni of Ife presided. In 1938, the second conference was held at Ife, the Ooni of Ife presided. In 1939, the conference was held in Ibadan, the Ooni of Ife presided.

In 1940, the conference of Yoruba Obas was held at Abeokuta, the Ooni of Ife presided. In 1941, the conference was held at Ijebu-Ode the Ooni of Ife presided.

In 1942, the conference was held at Benin City the Ooni of Ife presided. It was the custom at the conference for the Ooni of Ife to sit in the east and the other Obas on his right and left. The governor sat in the west with members of his staff, the governor would depart with his entourage and the Ooni would take control. The Royal dynasty of Yorubaland extends to Benin Republic, Warri and other parts of the world such as the Akoos, of Sierra Leone and the Bahians of Brazil. In the United States of America, a strong “resorgimento” in African culture and tradition has identified itself with Ife. When the present Ooni of Ife visited Trinidad and Tobago, many Yorubas of the diaspora thronged to have a glimpse of the Ooni whom their most ancient grandmothers and grandfathers had told their grandchildren was the custodian of the primordial mystical powers of the Yoruba race to which they belong. Some of them in reverence kissed his toes. In Cuba, the great Fidel Castro himself gave a rousing welcome.

3. Extracts from “Ooni of Ife Through Time” An Exhibition of Ife King list (A publication of the National Museum Ile-Ife Osun State Nigeria 20th November 2000, Pages 8-9 ORANMIYAN THE 6TH OONI OF IFE

Oranmiyan, the youngest son of Oduduwa was said to have lived between 1200 and 1300 A.D. He was a great warrior and the husband of Moremi, the great heroine of Ife. The present day Benin dynasty was said to have been founded by him when the people of Benin sent to Oduduwa for a king to rule over them. Oranmiyan was sent and when he got to Benin, he organized and established a system of government as obtained in Ife. He married one of their daughters who gave birth to Eweka who became the first Oba of the present day Benin dynasty. Oranmiyan having completed the task left Benin and settled at Oyo where he also left a son, Ajaka on the throne as the Alaafin of Oyo. Thus, Oranmiyan was the only Ooni of Ife who had the honour of crowning two of his sons as the Oba of Benin and the Alaafin of Oyo respectively.

4. Extracts from Guardian Newspaper Friday 30th January 2009 “Politics Page” HOW A NEW YORUBA LEADER WILL EMERGE, BY OBA OKUNADE SIJUWADE

The Ooni spoke extensively on the political history of the Yorubas with particular reference to the raging leadership tussle between some prominent Yoruba Obas, especially in Oyo State where the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana and the Soun of Ogbomosho, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III who have locked horns over some issues of Obaship supremacy.

Recalling the bickering between him and the Alaafin over the headship of the Council of Obas in the old Oyo State, the Ooni said contrary to beliefs in many quarters, the creation of Osun State from old Oyo State by the Babangida military administration in 1991 has nothing to do with Alaafin’s attempt to make the chairmanship seat of the then council of Obas rotational between him and the Alaafin.

Going deeper into the 19th century history of the Yorubas, the Royal father said the Oyo Empire which Alaafin is still hanging on to is no longer in existence because it collapsed and disintegrated in September 1793 under the Alaafin Aole and that the Alaafin also lost his beaded crown with fringe benefits during the episode and the crown was never re-consecrated by Ile-Ife up till today.

For Alaafin to be claiming to be number one Oba in Yorubaland is a taboo which his fore bearers never attempted to do because they knew it would be an abomination, he stated. On the current raging crisis that is rocking the Oyo State council of Obas, the Ooni said he had been approached by millions of Yoruba people in Nigeria and abroad on the need to intervene, stressing that his stand at this moment is to make sure that there is peace.

The Royal father added: “But honestly speaking, the Olubadan crown has nothing to do with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi as the controversy has finally settled and laid to rest in 1976 at a meeting between the then governor of old Oyo State. Maj. Gen David Jemibewon and the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Sir Adesoji Aderemi who was the chairman of council of Obas at that time and himself, then as Prince Okunade Sijuwade in attendance. He said: “I was actually approached by my friends from Ibadan, including Late Chiefs Lekan Salami, Adisa Akinloye, S.O Lanlehin, S.L Durosaro and late Oba Adeyemo to return home from London to support the then governor at the special meeting which was very short and precise because of Ibadan’s historical background and affiliation to Ile-Ife. As the first founder of Ibadan, Crown Prince Adio Lagelu was a direct son of Ooni Luwo Gbagada who had a beaded crown with fringe benefits sent to settle in Ibadan in 1401AD.

According to him, Ibadan has always been the political headquarters of the Yoruba people where the late Papa Obafemi Awolowo served as the first Premier of the defunct Western Region followed by the late Chief S.L Akintola and it was also from Ibadan the first African governor in person of the late Ooni, Oba Adesoji Aderemi emerged followed by late Chief O. Fadahunsi.

The matter of the Soun of Ogbomosho, he added also came up at the special meeting with the governor and it was settled. But what people may not know is that the mother of the first Alaafin was Ibariba Aishatu and the first Alaafin Ajaka served in Katunga where the Ibaribas originated from and the first wife of Alaafin Ajaka was the senior sister to the progenitor of Soun’s dynasty and their crown has been settled with Ajaka’s dynasty long before 1600AD through his wife.

This, according to him was why it was easy for Oba Soun Luwusi in 1832 to instruct his Baale Oja in Ogbomosho territory to settle Prince Atiba and the remnants of the Oyo people when they were exterminated from their home base to where is now known as Oyo Alaafin (Ago-Doyo) through his subject Baale Oja, the father of Ashipa in 1832.

The history of northern Yoruba, the Ooni noted cannot be complete without the “Ibaribas” and “Nupes” and as a matter of fact, there are some other traditional rulers wearing beaded crowns with fringe benefits who must be able to stand tall at all times. These are the Aresa, Olugbon, Onipetu, Olukoyi and a few others in the part of northern Yoruba area who should be able to settle their differences whenever the need arises even though they have been handicapped because they have been ravaged by the Fulani Jihad war when they nearly lost everything they had.

5. Compass Newspaper Thursday August 21st 2008, Page 47 – OPPOSITION MOUNTS OVER IYALODE YORUBALAND TITLE

Monarchs, Fasehun, Olajide, others kick

Traditional rulers and some Yoruba leaders have kicked against the proposed conferment of the Iyalode of Yorubaland title on the Abeokuta industrialist and deposed Iyalode of Egbaland, Mrs. Alaba Lawson.

To them, the title to be conferred by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, on Saturday is strange in Yorubaland and an attempt to encourage Lawson to continue disrespecting the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo. Although Oba Adeyemi had explained that he chose to honour Lawson for her contributions to industry and commerce, some of the people who spoke to the Nigerian Compass on the matter expressed shock that “some Obas are bastardizing the Yoruba culture by creating artificial titles, thereby contributing to the disunity in Yorubaland.

From the Vice-Chairman of Osun State Council of Obas and Olojudo-Alayemore of Ido-Osun, Oba Aderemi Adeniyi-Adedapo came a statement, a copy of which was made available to the Nigerian Compass, in which he disowned the decision of the Oyo monarch, saying he was not representing Yoruba Obas.

Let us make it crystal clear and for record purposes that the Alaafin of Oyo has no power over any title, carrying Yorubaland appellation. The truth of the matter is that whichever titles have been previously conferred carrying the Yorubaland appellation like …. The so-called impending one like the Iyalode of Yorubaland are fake, a ruse, null and void.

Digging into the history of the old Oyo Empire, Oba Adeniyi-Adedapo said “no Alaafin of Oyo has any superiority over any Alake of Egba …. The public must not be deceived because unfortunately, Oyo Empire disintegrated since September 1793 AD under Alaafin Aole. Founder and President of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). Dr. Frederick Fasehun told the Nigerian Compass that only the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade could make such a general conferment.

As a 73 year old man, I have never heard about any Iyalode of Yorubaland in my life. This is an entirely new thing. We have Iyalode in many Yoruba towns and villages, definitely not of Yorubaland. If any oba confers such a title, it is very wrong, it is of no effect; it is a cheer waste of time. Nobody will respect any individual carrying such a title. Only the Ooni of Ife has the power to confer any title covering the entire Yorubaland. To the former Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, it is not proper for any traditional ruler to appropriate the award of any traditional title to himself as it is bound to create disaffection among other obas.

Olajide argued that such generalized title would not command the respect of all, advising obas to restrict the conferment to their domains. According to him, the Oyo Empire which extended to Benin Republic crumbled centuries ago. Hence no Alaafin had the power to confer any title which influence goes beyond his domain. Olajide counseled obas to always do things that will unite us instead of those that will cause more disunity.

An official at the palace of the Ooni, who craved anonymity, recalled to our reporter that when the Jagunmolu of Yorubaland title was conferred on the former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, it was a joint decision of all the obas, who performed various roles on the occasion.

Besides, he explained that the then Ooni of Ife presided over the conferment of the Aare Onakanfo title on the late Ladoke Akintola, former Premier of the old Western Region. He expressed regrets that what the Alaafin of Oyo is doing is to encourage the woman (Lawson) to continue showing disrespect to the paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Gbadebo. It’s very wrong.

The official cited the example of the legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who was made the Aare Bamofin of Yorubaland by the Alaafin, saying “you would have noticed that in all the adverts in which people congratulated the man, all of them carried the Aare Bamofin of Oyo Empire. The man must have told them he preferred it like that. He added; “Even the cap he wore on that day, if he had his way, he would have removed the Yorubaland from it but you know the thing must have been prepared for him by the palace”.

6. Extracts from NIGERIA TRIBUNE WEDNESDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2013, PAGE 3 – PROPOSED NATIONAL CONFAB SHOULD GIVE NIGERIA STABILITY, PEACE – YORUBA TRADITIONAL LEADERS, OTHERS.

Yoruba traditional rulers and leaders of thought, on Tuesday in Ile-Ife, tasked President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the proposed national conference gives Nigeria and its people the much needed stability and peace.

The Yoruba leaders, leaders of thought and other socio-cultural groups, including Afenifere, Afenifere Renewal Group, Yoruba World Assembly, Odua People’s Congress (OPC), Yoruba Council of Elders, Yoruba Unity Forum, among others who converged on the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, submitted that the forthcoming national conference must provide strong platform which could guarantee peace and stability of the nation.

After a closed door meeting, which lasted for almost five hours, the Yoruba obas in a 4-point communiqué signed by Yinka Odumakin also appointed former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae and General Alani Akinrinade respectively as the chairman and secretary of the Yoruba Obas and Leaders of Thought.

In conclusion, “we also express our profound gratitude to the Adimula Oodua, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade for the initiative of calling the meeting and pleads with Kabiyesi not to relent in reaching out to all necessary constituencies to fully solidify the House of Oduduwa.”

7. THIS IS ILE-IFE BY OMOTOSHO ELUYEMI – A SHORT HISTORY OF ILE-IFE

Ile-Ife, Ooye Lagbo, More mope aye, Ibiti ojumo tii mowa, Oodaiye, Olori aiye gbogbo, Ile owuro.

Translated:

Ile-Ife, the city of the survivors where the dawn of the day was first experienced, Head of the whole universe, the land of the most ancient days.

The history of Ile-Ife is wrapped in a thick fog of myths and mythologies. And the above quotation aptly shows the appellations of the city. To the European foreigners during the early colonial days it was a “holy city”. To the descendents of Yoruba in other parts of the world, Ife was the original home of all things and the peoples.

To the Yoruba in Nigeria it was “the home of divinities and mysterious spirits”. To the Ife people themselves it was “Ilurun” that is, “the gateway to heaven”.

Ile-Ife and the Yoruba Nation: 

Ile-Ife was the capital of the Yoruba Kingdom before the emergence of Oyo Empire. After the death of Oduduwa many of his children and grand-children left Ile-Ife to found other Yoruba Kingdoms.

Before the series of wars of the last century in the Yoruba country, Ile-Ife was the capital of an extensive kingdom. To this effect, C.H.H. Moseley, the acting Governor of the colony of Lagos in 1904 confirmed that “the Province of Ife lies adjacent to the colony of Lagos”.

8. ALAROYE – YORUBA MAGAZINE BACK PAGE 25TH NOVEMBER, 2013 – WHERE DID ODUDUWA COME FROM.

A man called the father of historians who lived around 484 to 424 BC (Before Christ) HERODOTUS wrote in one of his books that between 3000 and 1000 years BC (Before Christ) there were five nations in Africa and Ile-Ife was (is) one of them. Also Reverend Johnson said all YORUBA NATIONS throughout the world traced their SOURCE TO ILE-IFE.

The conclusion from this scenario is that ILE-IFE is the only TOWN known to be HOME FOR ALL the YORUBA’S and this is not in dispute whatsoever.

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