Loosening the Burden of History: Transition and Installation of Ooni of Ife and the Claim of Oore of Otun-Ekiti

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Adekanmi Abayomi

It is not my style to join issues with people on history, but I think I need to react to this particular piece about Odùduwà’s relationship with Oore of Otun-Ekiti, which was published by some national newspapers, not THISDAY. It is important to reply this unscrupulous write-up because some elements need to be checked and, perhaps, prevented from misleading the general public with their slothful sense of history. I am neither an ethnic chauvinist nor jingoist, but I only have special affinity for history and my interest is that I abhor history being distorted and concocted in the face of impeccable facts.

On the 30th day of July 2015, an article titled: “How Oòni of Ife’s Death Should Be Announced,” was published by a national newspaper and the said article claimed that the rightful and traditional person to announce the demise of the Oòni of Ilé-Ifè̀ is Oore (King) of Otun-Ekiti (Mobaland) and that before a new Oòni can be installed, Oore of Otun-Ekiti has a special role to play. The history of Otun-Ekiti, on its website, further corroborated the facts in the above mentioned article and also said that after Odùduwà joined his ancestors, Oore (the first king and founder of Otun-Ekiti) was sent for and returned to Ilé-Ifè̀ to perform all necessary rituals for the burial of Odùduwà and also played a leading role in the installation of Odùduwà’s successor.

The above claims of the Otun-Ekiti and their promoters are not just laughable but vicious, fiendish, and shallow. When I read this article together with the history of the Otun-Ekiti on its website, the first question that came to my mind was: how old was Oore and where was Oore when Odùduwà reigned in Ilé-Ifè̀? At least, for them to be friends, as claimed by the history of Otun-Ekiti, they must have been contemporaries or existed at the same time.
According to Honsbira and St. Ifa 2008, J.E. Ireyefoju 2013, Odùduwà reigned in Ilé-Ifè̀ around 30BC. While both oral tradition and written evidence acknowledged Oore as the founder of Otun-Ekiti and led his people out of Okun-Moba (Moba Sea) in the present coastal area of Lagos (Eko) around 1500CE. The people of Otun-Ekiti under the leadership of Oore settled in different places at different times, including Moba near Mushin in Lagos and passing through Ilé-Ifè̀ before they finally settled at their present location. Some of the places they passed through after Ilé-Ifè̀ include Akure, Oke Olodun and Ipole before moving to their present site over 400 years ago. Oral tradition directly traced the root of Otun-Ekiti to Lagos (Eko) not Ilé-Ifè̀. History only links Oore to Ilé-Ifè̀ when Oore with his people had a stopover in Ilé-Ifè̀ around 1500CE and Odùduwà was no more alive at that period. History never told us that Oore was one of the sons or grandsons or great grandsons of Odùduwà. Evidently, the above said article and the history of Otun-Ekiti only claimed that Oore and Odùduwà were brothers and best of friends, respectively. Though, these are not only conflicting but a thing of mere imagination.

On who is responsible for the announcement of an Oòni’s demise, Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council has numerous duties, some of which are to announce the demise of an Oòni, select and install a new Oòni in conjunction with the isoro chiefs. Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council is made up of 16 kingmakers and they are divided into two groups: the eight traditional chiefs on the right are known as Ihare or Agba Ife and headed by Obalufe of Iremo, Ilé-Ifè̀, while another eight traditional chiefs on the left are known as Modewa, and headed by Lowa of Ilé-Ifè̀.

Isoro chiefs, headed by Obadio, are the custodians of all other deities in Ilé-Ifè̀. They are in charge of dialect and languages of gods and goddesses of the land. Isoro, as a group, is a powerful deity in Ilé-Ifè̀ kingdom. As tradition demands, isoro chiefs are deeply involved in traditional burial of an Oòni. The pre-burial rites and the burial will be moderated only by members of the isoro. Oòni of Ilé-Ifè̀ and Obalufe of Iremo, Ilé-Ifè̀, are also part of the isoro. According to the Araba of Osogbo-land, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, when an Oòni joins his ancestors, his body becomes that of the town. The Isoro group will take over his body. The Isoro chiefs are the ones who worship the Oro deity, appease the deities when a new Oòni is crowned, and also inform the various deities when an Oòni joins his ancestors. It is a rite.

After the needful traditional rites and necessary consultations might have been done by the traditional chiefs and isoro chiefs, the children of Odùduwà and the Governor of Osun State will be accordingly briefed by Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council before it becomes public consumption. According to traditional practice of Ilé-Ifè̀, the Traditional Council, led by Obalufe and Lowa, is the rightful traditional authority to announce such incident. This council has been doing this from time immemorial. We should not forget that the stool of Obalufe is as ancient as the city of Ilé-Ifè̀ itself. Apart from the fact that Obalufe is the King (Orunto Obalufe) of Iremo, Ilé-Ifè, he is also the Prime Minister of Ilé-Ifè̀ and second in rank to the Oòni of Ilé-Ifè̀.

In 1980, Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council challenged late Chief Bola Ige, the then Governor of the old Oyo State, for announcing the demise of late Oòni Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi on the floor of the old Oyo State House of Assembly without being briefed first by the Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council. The council considered the ex-governor’s action as an act of encroachment and an insult to Ilé-Ifè̀’s long standing tradition. Ige was widely condemned for assuming the responsibility of Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council.

On the 12th day of August 2015, Obalufe of Iremo, Ilé-Ifè̀, late Oba Solomon Folorunso Omisakin, led the Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council to the Osun State Government House, Osogbo, where the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was formally informed by late Oba Omisakin that the 50th Oòni of Ilé-Ifè̀, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II Akitikori, Ebitikimopiri, had joined his ancestors. Omisakin stressed that the announcement of Oòni’s demise was delayed because such announcement must be done in accordance with the tradition and custom.

From the above, Oore of Otun-Ekiti is neither an Obalufe nor Lowa nor a member of Ilé-Ifè̀ Traditional Council nor a member of Isoro. Therefore, Oore is totally irrelevant to either the announcement of the demise of an Oòni or selection, installation and coronation of an Oòni. Oore and Otun-Ekiti’s claims are not only embarrassing but highly fictitious, unbelievable, products of distortion and generally amount to cheap popularity.

In conclusion, it is unscientific and unreasonable for Oore and Odùduwà to be friends or brothers. According to Africa in the Iron Age: C.500 BC-1400 AD, Oore is not mentioned as one of Odùduwà’s brothers. Odùduwà existed more than 1,500 years earlier, before Oore was ever mentioned or existed. The history of Otun-Ekiti additionally explains that Oore and Odùduwà became friends as a result of the fact that Oore helped Odùduwà with healing water from Okun Moba when Odùduwà had sight problem. How can Oore’s healing water restore Odùduwà’s sight when Oore himself was not even in existence at the time Odùduwà reigned in Ilé-Ifè̀.

Moreover, if friendship actually has a place in our traditional tenets, like the so-called friendship the Otun-Ekiti people claimed to have existed between Odùduwà and Oore, then the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, should also have a place in our traditional setting because the immediate past Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and Oòni Sijuwade were best of friends and each other’s benefactor. Finally, I rejoice with our Baba, Oòni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, in consummating his Oòniship by wearing and appearing in public with the sacred Are crown in the forthcoming Olojo Festival 2016. Long may you reign, Kabiyesi Oòni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II.

I must also show my sincere appreciation to Royal Prince Adetona Sikiru Ayedun for his undiluted love for Ile-Oodua. I thank you my egbon SK for not allowing some unprogressive elements to pit you against our kingdom during the selection of Oòni Sijuwade’s successor. I equally salute your courage for being the first prince to congratulate Oòni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II as the 51st Oòni in the early hours of 24th day of October 2015 during a television programme. I also must appreciate our sooko(s) especially Sooko Adeleke Adewoyin of Lafogido Ruling House, princes and princesses of Ilé-Ifè̀ for allowing peace to reign in our beloved Ilé-Ifè̀.

Abayomi is an Ilé-Ifè̀ Prince, maritime lawyer, and shipbroker.