SINCE Saturday, August 15, 2015, when the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade (Olubuse II) was buried, many princes from within and outside Giesi, the next ruling house, have been jostling for the revered title. Even, some reportedly claimed to have been chosen and anointed by the late monarch as successor.
This claim, however, has been faulted by some sons and chiefs of Ife ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to on the process and tradition of selecting new Ooni on the premise that whoever becomes the Ooni of Ife is mainly determined by Ifa oracle.
They all maintained there is no way the late Oba could have anointed and chosen anybody before he passed on. So, their claim is regarded as not only a fable but alien to the history of the ancient kingdom and was not in tandem with the tradition guiding the ascendancy of the throne of Ooni.
Meanwhile, few hours after the remains of Oba Sijuwade were laid to rest, social media was agog with the report that Prince Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi has been positioned as the next Ooni being a very rich and influential prince from Giesi, the next royal house to produce Ooni in accordance with Chieftaincy Declaration of Ooni of Ife of 1977 by the then military government of Oyo State which recommended that the title should be rotated among the four ruling houses – Osinkola which produced late Oba Adesoji Aderemi, Ogboru which produced late Oba Okunade Sijuwade then followed by Giesi (next ruling house) and last but not the least, Lafogido.
However, in a bid to shed light on all the myths surrounding the exalted throne, ENCOMIUM Weekly had an exclusive interview with the traditional head of Wanikin, a minor town under Ife Kingdom, Oba Bankole Adewale Ojutalayo, Larooka of Wanikin, and he opened up on issues revolving around the throne.
According to the seasoned professional with proven track records in Housing, Infrastructure, Property Development, Estate Management and Urban/Regional Planning and a businessman, being a lesser Oba doesn’t prevent him from also vying for Ooni’s throne in as much he is also from the Giesi Royal family and more…
You’re already an Oba, why are you still aspiring to the stool of Ooni?
Thank you very much. That’s a very germane question. Now, the late Ooni, Baba Okunade Sijuwade called me and said there’re places he liked me to go on his behalf. Places where chiefs, princes cannot represent him, but someone who is already a royal majesty. He thought it fit, therefore, to promote me to the position of an Oba in a lesser kingdom, Wanikin. That position allowed me to sit on his behalf in many outings he was invited amongst traditional rulers all through the length and breadth of Nigeria. And indeed, it qualified me to represent him at a Commonwealth celebrations in London and attend a tea party with her majesty, The Queen of England. If I were not an Oba, I would never have been able to represent him in those places. So, making an Oba of Wanikin was a preliminary preparation for higher calling such as stepping into the shoes of the Ooni and sitting on the throne of Oduduwa. He prepared me through the lesser kingdom, he put me on.
The late Oba had no traditional role in the appointment of the new Ooni, a successor. However, in his life time, by body language and deliberate preparation of an acceptable candidate, he was able even in his transition to satisfy himself with the oracles that I have prepared somebody, and he would offer prayers to the oracles that whom he has prepared be the choice of God Almighty. This is not him doing the selection, it’s by prayers to the Almighty God. Ultimately, it’s God who decides. Even those who consult the oracles are also pleading with God Almighty to select the next Ooni and it’s in God we depend. So, if anybody says the Ooni can anoint or put him in the position to succeed him, it’s a lie. It’s God Almighty, through the oracles that ordain whoever becomes the next Ooni. Prayers in Oba Okunade Sijuwade’s lifetime and by his careful preparations of one or two or even 10 people that I have prepared, let the oracles select one. I believe he prepared me to an extent that I am able to occupy his position. But his preparing me does not mean the oracle has selected me until that is manifested in the physical. I hope that satisfies you. Thank you for the question.
Sir, how many lesser kings were under the late Ooni Okunade Sijuwade?
As it happened, the Ooni, Oba Sijuwade of blessed memory invited me to be the chairman of the committee that he set up to select Obas into all the erstwhile villages surrounding Ile Ife, and today there are about 50 Obas that have been put in these lesser kingdoms. I was the chairman that selected them and put them in their various positions. The kingdom of Ife is big.
But the news at the moment is that Prince Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi has been positioned as next Ooni. What’s your comment on that?
Prince Ogunwusi is my cousin. We’re from the same Giesi Ruling Family. The most important thing to us right now is for the son of Giesi to mount the throne of Ooni. Every prince is qualified and prepared. But some are more prepared and qualified than others. I feel prepared and qualified. So, it now depends on the oracle to select. So, whoever becomes the Ooni is the anointed one by God. That’s what we all pray for. Prince Ogunwusi is my cousin, I love him. It’s not a do or die affair to become the next Ooni.
So, both of you are from Giesi, the ruling house to produce the next Ooni. Why not come together and pick one person?
(Smiles) It’s not done that way. Selecting the Ooni must be done according to tradition. Just like I said, there are a lot more qualified candidates for the stool. I am the Laroka of Wanikin, one of the minor towns in Ile-Ife, belonging to Agbadegbade and Wanikin Obalogun Royal House of Ife where Ogunwusi is also from. Ooni is a reverred stool, a position that requires long term tutelage. The Ooni is the father of the Yoruba race. So, the position will be very difficult for someone who has not been spiritually, mentally and even physically prepared to ascend. It’s in this light that the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, in the divine wisdom he was blessed with that he applied in grooming, preparing and exposing someone he took as his alter ego to represent him at any function, locally and internationally, making sure this person mingled in the last four years, with the high and mighty. It wouldn’t have been possible for Baba Ooni to expose a prince to hobnob and mingle with traditional means without himself being one.
You said there are lot more princes that are qualified to ascend the Ooni’s stool, how many aspirants so far?
As we speak, we don’t know because the law provides that the ruling house should allow every prince that’s sufficiently qualified to present himself to the family. Then, the elders will now screen the applicant and forward his name to the kingmakers. Every other aspirant is also expected to do same. It’s important to get it right because once the names are forwarded to the kingmakers, the kingmakers will now consult the oracle who may pick out of the names or may not even pick any. If it so happens that none of the names forwarded is acceptable to the oracle, the kingmakers will now turn to the next ruling house to produce candidates. They will also go through the same procedure. If they also fail, the kingmakers will proceed to the next ruling house and so on. That’s what confuses the public when they see so many princes from different ruling families parading themselves as, probably, the next Ooni. But in reality, they’re only praying that the actual ruling house that’s supposed to provide the next Ooni fumble so that they can step in. But in this case, we have the Giesi Ruling House, whose turn it is, praying fervently not to fail or fumble. Several meetings have been called for to all qualified and interested princes, both male and female offsprings. They will all be considered.
That means a prince that’s of female offspring can also become the Ooni?
Yes, but preference is given to male offsprings. But where a female offspring excels above the male ones, and the oracle identifies and selects her, she becomes undoubtedly the Ooni-elect.
How long will this take and when does it start exactly?
The law provides that from the date the vacancy occurs, would be the date the state government, through the local government would write a letter to the ruling house that’s expected to produce a candidate or candidates within 14 days whose names are expected to be forwarded to the kingmakers. So, it’s when the kingmakers have received such names that they begin the rituals of selection. They will now consult the Ifa oracle. As soon as they have the right person, they will now forward the name of the right candidate to the state government, through the LG, for approval. The selected person now becomes the property of the palace chiefs who will now keep him in seclusion (Ipebi) for the carriage of the stool of Ooni.
We learnt staying in Ipebi takes three months before one can be officially crowned. Is it the same thing for the Ooni’s stool?
Yes, usually it’s three months that the selected candidate will spend in Ipebi. But during the time of Oba Sijuwade, he was able to cover all the preparatory processes in less than three months.
In Ife, the oracle upholds itself. Very much likely, there may be some princes that may be grumbling. Such people have the right to take a legal step. But along the line, they will succumb to the wisdom of the oracle. And the successive Ooni’s have been credited with good performance. The same God that guided them is still on the Throne and will definitely be with the next Ooni.
Can we say we’re talking to the next Ooni now?
That’s if the oracle picks me. I am just an aspirant now so also every other prince.
Including Enitan Ogunwusi?
Yes, we’re all aspirants for now.
If you eventually become the next Ooni, what will you do to surpass the record of your predecessor who was adjudged the greatest performer on the throne of the Ooni of Ife?
There is no perfect human being. The assessment of Oba Okunade is as well as it has been reported, but there are areas where he himself expressed a lot of regret before he joined his ancestors. His desire was to have the Yoruba nation more united, especially the traditional heads in different Yoruba townships. So, prayerfully, the next Ooni must strive to unite the Yoruba race at home and in the diaspora. The most important thing is to have friendly and loving relationship among the Yoruba while at the same time, playing a fatherly role over the entire Nigerian citizenry. It’s important for the constitution of Nigeria to recognize the role of traditional rulers and create within the constitution respectability and recognition of traditional rulers in peace keeping within their respective towns, states and Nigeria as a whole. Economic development of any township is largely dependent on the ability and encouragement given by the traditional heads.
What would happen to the incessant supremacy battle between the Ooni and Alaafin of Oyo?
It can’t continue because the two eminent individuals had personality clashes which, of course, were blown out of proportion by the media and the political class who were benefitting from the so-called ego battle. So, that can’t continue at all.
When exactly did you become the Laroka of Wanikin?
That’s January 2012. I was installed by Baba Ooni Okunade Sijuwade. I was the errand king of the late Ooni, and he didn’t hide it from the public. Anywhere I went to represent him, he would also find out about me and he was always happy for the feedback he got about me. Even in April this year, he visited me and planted a tree in my premises. Few days after, his chiefs also came and did likewise. Everybody is free to read meanings to all these.
We learnt you’re also Sooko of Ife, what’s the meaning of the title?
It simply means Asorooko bi omo Oba.
When did you become Sooko?
I was installed Sooko Olofin about 12 years before I became Laroka of Wanikin. The title of Sooko is restricted to the princes of Ile-Ife. And they have to be princes of the royal lineage. And it can’t just be anybody, he has to be tested and trusted with integrity. He must have the potentials of an Oba in the Ife kingdom. And you can’t be Ooni without being the Sooko Olofin first. That means before you become the Ooni, you have to be admitted into the royal council of Sooko.
That means Oba Okunade Sijuwade was once Sooko before becoming the Ooni?
Yes, of course. But in all, the wisdom of the oracle reigns supreme.
We also learnt expression of interest forms are being sold to all aspirants and its N250,000. How true is this?
There is nothing like that. No such thing exists in Giesi. Our family is not selling any form. The race is open to any interested and qualified prince. And such a person is subject to the family screening and interview.
You said that it’s the state government that will declare the stool vacant, has that been done?
That’s yet to be done. We’re all anticipating that anytime soon.
Lest we forget, the public impression is that for anybody to ascend the throne of the Ooni, he must be super rich and influential just as the two previous Oonis Adesoji Aderemi and Okunade Sijuwade. Do you see yourself in that category?
That’s a very loaded question. And my answer is that by the grace of God, I am comfortable. I am not indebted to any banks. And I have sufficient assets for me to fall back and feel comfortable. And let me tell you, there have been Oonis who emerged without any money but they had different gifts. Ajagun, the Ooni before Aderemi, Oba Ademiluyi, was wealthy as a farmer and he had metaphysical powers which he was blessed with, and which shook the whole nation in his time.
Different Oonis were given different gifts, but one thing that’s common is that the position of Ooni attracts all kinds of wealth, power, influence and all that you can imagine. Having money to ascend the throne of Ooni is good, but even when you’re there, riches, wealth and more will locate you. But above all, one is not going there for wealth but service to the people of Ife, the Yoruba race and the entire nation. And ensuring that peace and tranquility reign at the source. It’s not wealth that matters.
Sir, you sound to be a Christian. How does that correlate to being an Oba going by all the rituals involved?
Thank you so much. This is a popular question I believe all my friends will like me to answer. I affirm to you that I am a child of God. I am a born again Christian, a Christian of the Anglican Communion to the core. I believe in the supremacy of God Almighty. I believe that Jesus Christ came to the world to save the sinners and to die on the cross at Calvary, and to reconcile humanity to God. I follow him everywhere. Now, a Christian Oba has the chance and every opportunity to go on a missionary journey. I have no fear that who God will use in whatever position, He will use and give him direction. And I have no doubt in my mind that as a Christian Oba, I have a lot of light to shed on to darkness that may be around. So, help me God.