Tuesday, August 18, 2015 1:04 am
AYODEJI JOSEPH ODEYELE
In traditional Yoruba society, the leader of an Ilu (town or society) is the Oba (king), the leader of smaller villages is the Baale, while the leader of a compound is called Olori Ile. The choice of who governs at these various levels is done through democratic means. The choice of the Baale and the Olori Ile is mostly based on age and prominence in the ancestral tree of the village or compound, and each has a number of royal families among which the Oba is chosen.
Furthermore, when there is a vacant stool, candidates for Obaship would emerge from the royal families. As soon as they emerge, they are all treated as equal candidates to the stool after which they are subjected to the same rules and treatment with the final choice of an Oba made by the Kingmakers in consultation with the Ifa oracle. For example, in Oyo, the Alaafin was elected from a number of candidates linked by royalty by a King-making body called the Oyomesi which consists of seven councillors of society [also done in other paramount Yoruba traditional societies and in Ile-Ife, the primordial or spiritual capital of the Yoruba]. The Ooni also emerges from among members of the ruling houses while the King-makers, under the directive of the Ifa oracle, choose whoever should emerge as the Ooni. Interestingly, in cases of succession and ascension, Yoruba traditional culture employed the assistance of the Ifa oracle to aid the Kingmakers in determining who in the town should become the King.
The point here is that in each Yoruba traditional Ilu, there are some families already marked as the royal lineages from which contestants to the stool would emerge. When those who are considered eligible or who consider themselves eligible for the contest emerge, they would all be subject to the same and equal exercise by the Kingmakers who are the officials in charge of such societal duties under the guidance of the Ifa oracle through a mediation by the Ifa priest who is also an important spiritual officer in the society. The import of this is that ascension to the throne was done according to some laid down rules agreed upon by people in the Kingdom.
Furthermore, the rules were applied equally without any preferential treatment. Pertinent to this account is that every member of the Ilu (Kingdom) is aware from the beginning that when a vacant stool is to be filled, contestants should come from the acknowledged royal lineages. In addition, among the aspirants from royal lineages, the one whose choice is supported by the King-makers in conjunction with the recommendation of the Ifa oracle finally becomes the Oba (King).
According to Yoruba oral sources, the world took off from Ile-Ife where other empires and kingdoms were founded. Oduduwa, founder of Ile-Iffe sent out his sons to found and rule over these empires and kingdoms. The relationship of the rulers of such empires and kingdoms to Ife in the distant past is unclear. However, it came to be recognized that although they had political power over these kingdoms and empires, spiritual power was believed to reside in Ile-Ife. It was this spiritual power that made it possible for them to rule successfully over their kingdoms and empires. Since Oduduwa, Ile-Ife has been regarded by the Yoruba as the cradle of their race, the land of the gods while the Ooni of Ife, regarded with awe and reverence, is referred to as God’s own representative on earth – Arole Oduduwa, Oluaye, Iku Alase, Orisa Keji.
Humble beginning of Oba Okunade Sijuwade
Oba Okunade Sijuwade was born on the 1st of January, 1930 to a great royal family in the Ogboru house, Ilare, Ile-Ife. The last Ooni of Ife that the Ogboru ruling house presented (before the incumbent) reigned in Ife for many years as Sijuwade Adelekan Olubuse I. He was the first Ooni to venture out of his domain. At the invitation of the colonial Governor, he visited Lagos in 1903 to give his ruling on whether the Oba Elepe of Epe was entitled to wear a crown which was earlier refused by Oba Akarigbo of Remo. Oba Adelekan was the father of the late Omo Oba Adereti Sijuwade, the father of Oba Sijuwade Olubuse II – the present Ooni of Ife. His mother was the late Yeyelori, Emilia Ifasesin Sijuwade.
Prince Okunade Sijuwade, as he was then called, started his elementary education at Igbein School, Abeokuta, an institution owned by the CMS Mission. He lived with his other brother under the care of their father’s good friend Chief G. A. Adebayo and his family. Chief Adebayo was the secretary to the Egba Council, under the Asoju Oba. After his elementary school education, he preceded to Abeokuta Grammar School, under the well-known educationist, The Rev. I. O. Ransome Kuti who was the principal of the school.