Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade and Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi
Recently, drums were rolled out in Oyo town as the Oranyan Festival was celebrated. The celebration was not without its controversies as the Ife Royal Court faulted the celebration in the old Oyo Empire. Tunde Sanni writes about the celebration and the arising issues
The celebration of the Oranyan festival started in April this year, when the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi raised a committee headed by the Bashorun of Oyo, High Chief Yusuf Akinola Ayoola with Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu as the vice chairman with the task to organise the most befitting first Oranyan festival for the Oyo Empire. The committee in response to Alaafin’s order commenced business in earnest, making contact with corporate bodies and individuals who can be useful to the expectations of the assignment at hand.
A source at the committee had then squealed to newsmen that the festival would pass down in history as one out of many in the history of the ancient community. “You know that this is not just a mere festival, this is going to be one festival out of many, which will involve towns and villages of the old Oyo empire, I mean we are expecting mass involvement of people from Ghana, Togo and Republic of Benin where the first Oranyan spread his tentacles, authority and supremacy on.”
So when in August, the activities for the celebration reached its pinnacle, an objection from the Ife royal court came in. The Alaafin had on Thursday, August 30, unveiled the plans to celebrate the Oranyan Festival in Oyo town. While spelling out the nitty-gritty of the much-talked about festival, the Alaafin said that the week-long event was intended to “celebrate the two strongest personalities in our land, who are Sango and Oranyan.”
The celebration, the monarch argued, was intended to put into correct perspective the personage whom he described as the ‘pre-eminent founder and builder of the Oyo Empire and the imperishable Yoruba Kingdom whose fame spread to all the nooks and crannies of West Africa. Oranyan is the direct linear descendant of the founder of the Yoruba race. He was reputed to be the Heads of Kings and Princes in Yoruba land.”
But the Ife royal court which angered by the development described the position of the Oyo monarch as a distortion of the history and culture of the Yoruba race. Besides, the Ife community resolved, earlier in the week, that it would not keep mum any longer, especially as the Oyo monarch and his subjects had decided to turn the history of the Yoruba race upside down.
Consequently, determined to present the true story of Oranmiyan, the Adagba of Iyanfoworogi, lie-Ire, Oba Adebolu Fatunmise said the claim by the Alaafin concerning the Oranyan festival in Oyo was a mockery of the Yoruba history and culture.
He affirmed that the Ife community did not begrudge the Alaafin and his subjects for celebrating any of the Yoruba deities, the Ife spokesman however frowned at the way and manner the organisers of the Oranyan Festival in Oyo had gone about it, saying that the custodians of the deity had been treated with flagrant disrespect. The spokesperson of the Ife community also faulted the claim by the Alaafin that “Oranyan Festival is the one and only authentic festival for metropolitan Oyo and the Yoruba race in which all Yorubas, both at home and in the Diaspora, can joyfully, enthusiastically and patriotically participate.” This pronouncement by the Alaafin, according to him, was another attempt at “selling dummies to the members of the society.”
According to Oba Fatunmise, “Oranmiyan was a Prince of Ife, the last son of Oduduwa who was also a warrior. It is open to no dispute that he has a right also to the throne in Ife. He founded cities, villages and hamlets, the last of which was Oyo-Ile in Katunga, now part of Niger State, before he returned to his fatherland-Ile-Ife, to take on the mantle of leadership as the 4th Ooni of Ife. Oranmiyan became a King here in Ile-Ife, where he died and was buried. He has his grove which, in modern-day parlance, you would refer to as mausoleum, his celebrated symbol of authority known as Opa Oranmiyan, his obelisk and the shrine where the grave and the staff are located as a person who had been turned into one of the deities in Ile-Ife, the cradle and the Source of all the Yoruba.
“Oranmiyan ended his military escapades in Oyo-Ile in today’s Niger State. And from Oyo-Ile where Ajaka, his first born ruled, Oramiyan came home here in Ile-Ife. The fact is that Oyo-Ile actually collapsed in 1830 for the reason of intransigence and because Aole, the Alaafin at that material time, had gone against the oath of office to which he swore that he would never antagonize or wage war against Ile-Ife or any interest of lie- Ife,” he stressed.
“If they are talking about Alaafin Atiba, all well and good, but if they insist on Oranmiyan, the Ife Prince, and the fourth Ooni of Ife, it certainly will be an aberration to harp so much on what does not belong to them. Therefore, the celebration of Oranmiyan without Ife is like celebrating arrogance and rascality, which has no importance and meaning. If an Alaafin was superior to an Ooni, why would a newly installed Alaafin have to come for his sword of office in Ile-Ife?”
The controversies aside, the celebration of the Oranyan festival turned out to be a huge success as Yoruba speaking people and monarchs from outside the country were on hand to join the Oyo monarch in the celebration.
The Oyo monarch who never shy away from history regaled his audience when he said, “Oranyan is the celebration of our hero and upholding of the legacy of decency, valour and decorum bequeathed by Oranyan, our progenitor. The last born of Oduduwa, Oranyan, the great, was the first Alaafin of Oyo and the Charlemagne of the Yoruba race. Historically, Oranyan operated successfully in Ile-Ife, Oyo-Ile and also Oko near Ogbomoso, then back to Oyo-Ile while he also foraged at Ado-Ibini. A prodigious personality, founder of kingdoms, administrator and Oba, Oranyan’s exploits and dominance captivated members of the nascent race. Oranyan’s proper name was Odede, a mighty hunter and warrior.
“It was Oranyan who inherited the sword of victory of Oduduwa, i.e “Ida Ajasegun”. This mark of special favour has lent force and brilliant success to the endeavours of Oranyan in his war efforts and campaigns. He criss-crossed the region, Yoruba/Edo in a streak of valour with permanent territorial footmark.”
In his remarks, Alaafin reiterated that the “best way to get something done is to begin it. This is just the beginning and we are sure that it will get better and grow bigger every year.”
Former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Emeritus Prof Wande Abimbola, in his lecture, presented Oranyan in the mould of the biblical Goliath with a gigantic stature that could have been over 20 feet tall in estimated height. He said: “Oranyan was a giant in stature. He was over 20 feet tall and his staff was about 15 feet tall. Nobody told us all of this, but these are some of the things we got to know via divine inspiration”. He also told the crowd of the exploits of his father who was a great warrior and how he escaped captivity.
The highpoint of the celebration was the appointment of a former governor of the old Oyo state, an Ibadan by origin and Owu in Ogun state by descent, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo as the Balogun of Oyo Empire.
Olunloyo stirred another controversy when he declared that “there is no Oba at Ife, what we have is ‘Abore’ (Priest)”. He also dabbled into the acrimony between Alaafin and Ooni as well as the age long feud between the monarch and his kinsmen at Isale-Oyo. According to him, the controversies that had trailed the festival were unnecessary, because, “Alaafin is the Sango, he is the Oranyan, he is the real Sango. The Oba in Ife is not an Oba, he is an ‘Abore’ (Priest), though, he is my personal friend, and he is my in law”.
On the perennial feud between the monarch and his Isale-Oyo Chief, (Ashipa) Olunloyo said there was nothing like Ago-Oja which the Ashipa was laying claim to as the original title of the compound, noting, “Ashipa was misled, there is nothing like Oloja of Ago-Oja”.
The new Oyo chief position on Ago-Oja contrasted sharply with the position of Oba Fatunmise who explained that Prince Atiba brought about the new Oyo on a land ceded to them by the owners, the Oja family, now known as Asipa family. The Alago of Ago Oja, according to him, gave out the land on the instruction of Soun of Ogbomoso because Oja was an outpost of the Ogbomoso land.
The Oranyan festival may have come and gone but with the controversy it generated and with the historical explanations between the Oyos and the Ifes, the rage appears a continuum.