Oba of Lagos versus Oba of Ile-Ife
The title of this piece is in line with that of the famous Daily Times weekly columnist, the late Allah de Odunewu, when in his inimitable humorous style, he wrote in the early 1970s: “Kola Balogun Vs. Kola Balogun”. This is the template for mine that reads: “Oba of Lagos Vs. Oba of Ile-Ife”. There are differences in the personalities. Allah de’s personalities were private citizens of repute, whilst in mine, the personalities are royal fathers. In his article, the duo was flexing muscles over the similarity in their names. That was a storm in a tea cup. In mine, the royal fathers are apparently proving superiority of status through snub. It confirms the truth in the idiom: “It takes two to tango”. The background to the tango is essential.
Recently, there was a social occasion at which many Yoruba monarchs were present. Report said that the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi arrived late to the venue. In Yorubaland, there is a saying: “Courtesy costs nothing, but it gains much.” As a matter of courtesy, the Ooni of Ile-Ife considered it was incumbent on him to greet the other royal fathers who were earlier arrivals. Oba Ogunwusi, therefore, went round to hug and exchange pleasantries with every monarch.
When it came to the turn of Oba Rilwan Osuolale Aremu Akiolu of Lagos for Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi, to show similar respect, the Oba of Lagos, simply waved his hand to Oba of Ile-Ife, like a school boy who was rejecting a memento. Oba Akiolu’s hand gesture signified that Ooni of Ile-Ife should bugger off. The Ooni of Ife might be so put off by Oba Akinolu’s attitude. Naturally, Oba Ogunwusi would be ill at ease; it was a slur cast on the Ile-Ife monarch, pretty indicating that Lagos Oba was a conceit. Thereafter, a group of Lagos chiefs tried to give flimsy excuses that Oba Akiolu’s hand gesture was their traditional style of greeting, and besides, Lagos Oba was an off-shoot of Benin monarch. This is a way of twisting history to further worsen Oba Akiolu’s stance.
The Lagos chiefs forgot that Oba of Benin was third son of Oduduwa of Ile-Ife. As a tradition, whenever a reigning Oba of Benin visited Ile-Ife, he would enter the Palace through the back door. Oba Akenzua was the last to visit Ile-Ife Palace through a back door. Therefore, Oba Akiolu owes loyalty to Ooni of Ife. He must respect him as his progenitor. When there is a conflict between age and tradition, the latter is supreme; age is nothing where tradition is concerned, as elderly citizens pay homage to young Oba on the throne, meaning that chiefs and elderly citizens must prostrate for the young Oba.
This attitude by one Oba to another Oba is detestable. The ugly incident raised the hue and cry of many watchers of traditional institution. Some critics gloat in ignorance; others are blinded by prejudice. In law, both parties to a matter must be heard in the interest of justice. Strange to relate, aside from the Lagos chiefs’ flimsy statements, up to the time of drafting this piece, Oba of Lagos remained silent on the issue. His silence could be interpreted as an acquiescence. Subsequent event is sad to narrate.
In The Guardian, May 4, 2017, there was a news-story on a fire accident in the palace of Oba of Lagos. That raised an insinuation that the fire incident was the outcome of the snub. This opinion piece might not be necessary, but for the consequent innuendo. Some members of the public linked the fire incident to the snub that Oba Akiolu gave to the Ooni of Ife. The Ooni expressed sympathy with the Oba of Lagos, noting that the incident had nothing to do with the relationship between him and Akiolu.
Moses Olafare, the spokesperson of the Ooni palace, said the fire incident had nothing to do with the monarchs’ strained relationship. He said: “We are not happy over the fact that the palace of Lagos Oba got burnt. We can only sympathise with the palace on the development. People are entitled to their own views. But what people say doesn’t mean that is the position of the palace. What happened is mere coincidence and should not be traced to the incident in Lagos.
We send our sympathies”. That statement from Ile-Ife palace is a hallmark of maturity.
At this juncture, it is necessary to have a general viewpoint of the afore-mentioned development between both monarchs. In Yorubaland, in the days of yore, it was an established convention of monarchism that developed into a taboo. Two monarchs must not see eye to eye. The reason for the convention was to avoid the type of disdain metted to the Ooni of Ife by the Lagos Oba. An instance of the breach of this convention was in Ondo.
In the colonial days, a District Officer (D.O) was in charge of each Division. He was a white man in charge of administration at the local level. For long, the D.O. was consistently urging an Ondo Oba to accompany him to see another Ondo Oba. The Oba under pressure would decline, until he accepted one day. The Oba declined each time, contending that it was a taboo to see another crowned Oba . One day, the Oba in question succumbed, but on their way to the other Oba’s place, the accompanying Oba mysteriously disappeared from the D.O’s side and returned to his own palace back home.
History had it that the D.O was flabbergasted. However, the D.O arrived as a lone guest at the other Oba’s palace. Back to the mysterious monarch, it was drummed to the D.O’s head for the umpteenth time that two Yoruba kings were forbidden from seeing eye to eye. Nowadays, civilization has whittled down the reverence for Yoruba monarchs. Politics hugely contributes to this irreverence. I strongly believe that whatever is the personal trait of a man, good or bad, if he assumes a political, ecclesiastical or any status of high rank, the peculiar character will not deviate or be divested from him. His peculiarity, shall, nonetheless, manifest
With this development, my advice to the Ooni of Ile-Ife is to continue to be the peaceful unifier and also a humble monarch. People are watching him. He is a light to the paths of many young ones. He must not relent.
Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.