MEET THE NEXT OONI OF IFE

Ademiluyi Royal Family to produce the next Ooni of Ife

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As the Council battled to dispel the report of the revered monarch’s death, news emerged that the Osinkola ruling house, one of the four ruling houses in the ancient city, is poised to produce the next Ooni.

It has been reliably gathered that the battle for succession has been narrowed down to the Ademiluyi Royal Family in the town regarded as the cradle of humanity by the Yoruba.

There are four ruling houses in Ile-Ife, namely Lafogido, Giesi, Ogbooru and Osinkola. The Ademiluyis are the main branch of the Osinkola dynasty.

While Oba Okunade Sijuwade is from the Ogboru ruling house, his predecessor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, was from Giesi ruling house. Elders from the Osinkola/Ademiluyi family, however, declined comment on the succession plan.

Our impeccable source said the reported demise of Oba Sijuwade at the St. Mary’s Royal Hospital in Paddington, London, after a brief illness on Tuesday, has thrown up at least five members of the Ademiluyi family as top contenders.

The names currently on the lips of the family include those of Princes Ademola Ademiluyi, an octogenarian, lawyer and a close confidant of Chief Rasaq Okoya (chairman, Eleganza Group); Yinka Ademiluyi, a septuagenarian socialite, and Gboyega Ademiluyi, said to be in his late sixties, but suave, cultured and a highly successful oil magnate.

Others are Prince Adebambo Ademiluyi, in his mid-sixties, ex- Kings College graduate, and Prince Kanmi Ademiluyi who is in his late 50s. It was learnt that, Kanmi, the maternal scion of the Lagos Peregrino family and former editor of The Punch may be difficult to discountenance in the selection of a new Ooni.

He is said to have close affinity with the All Progressives Congress and is extremely close to both the Osun State Governor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

It is forbidden to express aspiration to succeed a reigning monarch, but there is no denying that all eyes have turned in the directions of the Osinkola ruling house to produce Oba Sijuwade’s successor.

In Yorubaland, it is unheard off and indeed a taboo for anybody to aspire to the throne of a sitting monarch. Hence, nobody wants to be identified with such aspiration.

There has been no formal announcement of the death of Oba Sijuwade, who was reportedly flown to London last week unconscious from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, in an air ambulance.

Ife, the Source And the Oba’s Immortality

Ooni, the title of the traditional ruler of Ile-Ife, ranks at the forefront of traditional institutions in Yorubaland by virtue of the position of Ile-Ife as the cradle of Yoruba kingdom.

Its dynasty goes back to over a hundred years back, with fifty monarchs having ascended the throne.

Historically, Ife is where the founding deities, Oduduwa and Obatala, began the creation of the world, as directed by the paramount deity, Olodumare.

Obatala was said to have created the first humans out of clay, while Oduduwa became the first divine king of the Yoruba nation.

Other Obas in the line include Osangangan Obamakin, Ogun, Obalufon Ogbogbodirin, Obalufon Alayemore, Oranmiyan, Ayetise, Lajamisan, Lajodoogun, Lafogido, Odidimode Rogbesan, Aworokolokin, Ekun, Ajimuda, Gboonijio, Okanlajosin, Adegbalu, Osinkola, Ogboruu, Giesi, Luwoo, Lumobi, Agbedegbede, Ojelokunbinrin, Lagunja, Larunnka, Ademilu, Omogbogbo, Ajila-Oorun, Adejinlejila, Olojo, Okiti, Lugbade, Aribiwoso, Osinlade, Adagba, Ojigidiri.

Others are; Akinmoyero who reign between 1770-1800, Gbanlare (1800–1823), Gbegbaaja (1823-1835), Wumonije (between 1835-1837), Adegunle Adewela (1839-1849), Degbinsokun (1849-1878), Orarigba (1878–1880), Derin Ologbenla (1880–1894), Adelekan Olubuse (1894-1910), Adekola (1910, Ademiluyi Ajagun (1930-19800), Adesoji Aderemi (1930-1980) and Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse 11 (1980-2015).

Sijuwade: Controversial In Death

Nigerians woke up yesterday to hear again the news of the demise of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, the Oonirisa of Ife and Oluaye of Yorubaland.

While the Royal Traditional Council (RTC) of Ile-Ife yesterday said the paramount ruler was alive and in good health, news reports indicated that the royal father passed on to eternity at the St. Mary Royal Hospital in Paddington, West London, after a brief illness.

The Ooni was reportedly flown to London last week unconscious from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, in an air ambulance.

“Kabiyesi was flown out of the country about five days ago in an air ambulance. He was unconscious; his situation was critical. As a matter of fact, some people have been weeping in the palace since the weekend because of his situation when he was flown out from Ibadan in that air ambulance,” an impeccable source close to the revered monarch revealed.

Oba Sijuwade was said to have breathed his last at about 7:30pm on Tuesday. He was 85-years-old.

Ooni is hale, hearty – Royal Traditional Council

Addressing newsmen in the House of Chiefs located within the premises of Ile-Oodua Palace of the Ooni, the Lowa of Ife, Oba Joseph Ijaodola, who spoke in Yoruba, said the report in the media that the monarch died in a London Hospital of an undisclosed ailment was untrue.

The secretary of the RTC of Ife and Ladin of Ife, High Chief Adetoye Odewole, further asserted that the Ooni was hale and hearty and that he even spoke to the chiefs on the phone few hours earlier (yesterday).

Odewole added: “Those behind the death story are enemies of Ife and, as I speak with you, chiefs have not heard anything like that. This is not the first time such rumour will be carried about our father.

“They did it in 1984, also in 2004 and now these people are coming up with another rumour. Oba Sijuwade remains in sound state of health.”

Speaking in a similar vein, the chairman of Ife Development Board, Prof. Muib Opeloye, said Ife, as a town with rich tradition, has its way of managing its affairs.

Opeloye maintained that the royal father was preparing for his son’s wedding, and urged people not to panic and to go about their normal daily activities.

Many may be wondering why the death of a mortal is shrouded in mystery, but, traditionally, a king (an oba in Yorubaland) does not ‘die’; Obas join their ancestors.

How The Next Ooni Will Emerge?

In Yorubaland, it is unheard off and indeed a taboo for anybody to aspire to the throne of a sitting monarch. Hence, nobody wants to be identified with such aspiration.

Prince Adekunle Aderemi, son of former Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, in a published interview, recalled that his “father became king through an unwritten system in 1930. At that time, the laid down selection process was not written down. In Ife, I’d say, we have one ruling house. Ajibogun is subdivided into three: one is Sokola, another is Ogbooru (where the present Ooni came from) and then Agbedemore, sometimes called Ooni Afogido.

“In those days, the two sections of the chiefdom – right and left – would sit down to decide among the children of the Ooni who to succeed him. But things have changed. The government has created what is known as Chieftaincy Gazette of 1956; that was the first time we have recorded and documented that a chief can ascend to any throne in Yorubaland.”

Asked whether Ifa (corpus) method of choosing a royal father is no longer in use or relevant in Yorubaland, Prince Aderemi said it had not been jettisoned.

“No, it has not been jettisoned but has not been properly done. The only time they would have tested that system, it failed. It is an old system. It would have been the turn of Agbedemore. So far, I don’t know what they have in record. If it’s the right system, I think the best thing is to allow the chiefs pick their choice among the children of the ruling house,” he advised.

Why Aregbesola Keeps Mum

Even when the news is everywhere, the governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, would not confirm the death. He must have been guided by the experience of 1980.

When Sijuwade’s predecessor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, ‘ascended into the loft’ on July 3, 1980, his death was not announced until July 7, 1980, as demanded by the esoteric tradition of Ile-Ife where about 401 deities are worshipped all year round.

Ile-Ife competes with Egypt as the origin and custodian of a robust civilisation. According to tradition, the Ile-Ife Traditional Council is the only body that has the right to announce the demise of a sitting monarch and it is also the body saddled with the responsibility of nominating the successor.

The then governor of the old Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, had ‘goofed’ by announcing on the floor of the Old Oyo State House of Assembly that the king was no more. His action was roundly condemned by the Ife traditional council which claimed that it was their traditional responsibility to announce the death of their monarch.

However, since the deed had been done, the traditional council went ahead with the burial rites and, thereafter, embarked on the selection of a successor.

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Is An Ijesaman Like Ige

The Osun State government has not issued any official statement on the Ooni matter.

Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Office of the Governor, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, was not willing to utter a word about the alleged demise of the late businessman and socialite who ascended the throne of his forebears almost 35 years ago.

However, our correspondents learnt that the state government and the traditional council were waiting for official announcement by the palace chiefs.

How The Obituary Will Be Announced

Among the kingmakers in Ile-Ife are the Ejiro, the Obalufe and the Obaloran, who today are traditional rulers in their right courtesy Oba Okunade Sijuwade’s tenure as the Ooni of Ile-Ife.

Immediately after the death of Ooni, it is expected that the Sookolekun, who is the head of the Ife Princes, is saddled with the responsibility of informing the traditional council officially.

The traditional council will then carry out some cultural and traditional rites before the death of the monarch is announced to the public.

The council, after declaring the demise to the public, will now declare the markets in the ancient town closed and a seven-day mourning period declared.

It is expected that all the property of the late monarch must have been removed from the palace before the announcement of the death, as whatever was left of his property belongs to the palace immediately his demise was announced.

But Saraki Tweets His Condolence As State Assembly Mourns

Earlier yesterday, Senate President Bukola Saraki tweeted:

‘Saddened to learn of death of Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuade (Ooni of Ife); my deepest sympathy to the royal family pic.twitter.com/wnBysf9cXs

— Bukola Saraki (APC) (@bukolasaraki) July 29, 2015.

Also, the Osun State House of Assembly has expressed its sympathy to Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the state Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, the people of ancient city of Ile Ife and the immediate and extended families of Oba Sijuwade.

In a statement issued by the Speaker’s spokesman, Goke Butika, the parliament through by the Speaker, Najeem Salaam, “expressed his regret and shock at the transition of the natural ruler to the silent land of his forebears’, saying that “the engine room of royalty and the custody of Yoruba cosmology has just been temporarily grounded by the clog of death.”

Salaam then celebrated the life and times of the great king, stating that the monarch exuded unique royalty, almost equivalent of imperial culture, which could not be rivalled while he called the shots on the revered stool of his fathers.

“The parliament then sent its condolence to the governor over the loss of the monarch and prayed that the Supreme Eludumare, the Cherisher of Aiye, would rest the late natural father,” the statement added.

Indigenes, Residents Mourn, Palace Gates Shut

On hearing the news of their ebullient monarch’s death, hundreds of natives and residents of Ife converged on the entrance of the palace but were prevented from entering by guards. However, the entire ancient town remains calm with people going about their normal businesses.

The sympathisers began arriving at the palace as early as 6:30am to ascertain the veracity of the report from palace chiefs, but they declined to speak.

They callers were, however, turned back at the entrance by palace guards, while the gate was shut. Many sympathisers gathered in groups a few metres from the palace gate, discussing the development in hushed tones.

Ife has a tradition of the people looting the palace of a king that has passed away. But the tradition could not be executed when Sijuwade’s predecessor, the illustrious Oba Adesoji Aderemi, died.

When the private secretary of the Ooni, Mr Saka Awojoodu, was approached to react to the development, he simply said: “I have nothing to disclose.’’

Mr Bisi Oduyemi, one of those who was at the palace, said he came to find out whether the news of the monarch’s passing on was true.

Meanwhile, the entrance of Ooni’s palace was shut to visitors. Only newsmen, chiefs and relations of Oba Sijuade were allowed into the premises.

Sijuwade’s Unfilled Dream

One of the late Ooni’s sons, Adegbite, is set for his traditional marriage with ace television presenter and actress, Dolapo Oni.

The wedding was scheduled next Sunday. The wedding introduction was held a few days ago at the Oni’s family compound in Lagos.

In the interim, the leading chiefs of Ile-Ife and numerous Lagos-based citizens, chiefs and lovers of the ancient city, like the Asiwaju of Ile-Ife, Chief Alex Duduyemi; Chief Omidiora, Major Biodun Doherty, other chiefs “from the source”, Chief Sola Faleye, Prince Demola Dada, Chief Tony Soetan, Chief Femi Adeniyi Williams, etc, are awaiting confirmation or denunciation of the grapevine snipes.

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