What is killing our obas?
By Suyi Ayodele On Tuesday Flat-Out

I have a cousin. He is a senior lecturer at one of the universities in the South-West. He was programmed to die and be buried in 1976 or thereabouts. Providence, through the instrumentality of Ifa, saved him. His father, our father, the late Baba Daniel Falade, was to travel to Lagos. My cousin, who was barely seven years old, said he would follow him; a request that was turned down. Baba Falade woke early in the morning to embark on the journey. He checked to see that the little boy was fast asleep. Unknown to him, my cousin kept a vigil, but pretended to be asleep. As Baba stepped out, my cousin sneaked out and tip-toed behind him. As the old man made to enter the vehicle that would convey him to Lagos, he noticed that he was being followed. He found out that it was my cousin. The old man changed his mind, and decided to take the boy along with him. But being the best Babalawos of his era, he begged the driver and other passengers to give him a little time to consult Ifa if there would be consequences if he took the boy along with him. Ifa said there would be consequences but those could be averted if a sacrifice was made to Ògún, the god of iron. The sacrifice was carried out and the duo travelled to Lagos.

After about six weeks in Lagos, father and son set out on their return journey to the village. The child was in the far back seat of the car and Baba Falade on the front seat with another passenger and the driver. At Osu in Osun State, the driver stopped so that the passengers could buy Akara. Baba Falade bought Akara and bread for my cousin. Then he made a request. He asked that the boy should be brought to the front seat so that he could feed him on his lap. What a doting father! The request was granted and the journey continued. A few minutes later, a lorry which was following their vehicle at top speed lost its brakes. The lorry hit the vehicle from behind and cut it into two halves. All the four passengers in the back seat perished on the spot. My cousin and Baba Falade were unhurt in the front seat where they were. Baba Falade praised his Babalawos, and his Babalawos also praised Ifa. The cousin I am talking about here is an associate professor today. Ifa said there would be consequences but those could be averted with just a mere sacrifice to Ògún. That is the culture they asked us to throw away. They took Òpèlè from us and gave us the rosary. Now the real keepers of our culture die cheaply in the hands of bandits.

On Tuesday I must be in the church later for Bible Study. Before I am accused of venerating Ifa above God, what happened in the Ikole Local Government Area last week should worry an average Yoruba man or woman. Our obas are no longer safe. Armed men enter palaces to kidnap or kill monarchs on the thrones of Oduduwa. This is an eemo – a stranger-than-strange occurrence. Obas are known as Ògbàgbà ti úngba alailarará (the one who defends the defenseless). How come such a person is now the most vulnerable? Obas are powerful; they are beyond human imagination. In my native Odo Oro Ekiti, our oba, the Onise of Odo Oro Ekiti, is praised as Amélilájetùotùo – He who eats a cow together with its horns. He is also Ukú (death), Èkejì Òrìsà (the second in command to the deity). Most obas are like that. They are Igirabààtàlókun (the big tree that sprouts from the sea). They are Àrìrà tíúngbé inú òkun yìnbo (the thunder which fires guns from the sea). Obas are powerful, they are fearsome (èrùjèjè), fearless, and full of authority (abàsewàá). So, why should the one who sleeps on earth but commune with the dead now be at the mercy of the bullets of felons like kidnappers or assassins? Something is wrong.

In the same Ekiti State where the two prominent obas were wasted by the bullets of some felons, something terrible happened years ago. One of the 16-crowned obas (oba aládé mérìndínlógún), brought a grader and scrapped off the sacred groove behind the palace. In doing that, he did not spare the graves of his numerous predecessors, whose remains were buried in the sacred groove. His excuse? We are in modern times and such a bush should not be allowed in an emerging city like his domain, which also serves as a local government headquarters! The last time I asked after the oba, I was told that he had not entered the town, not to talk of the palace in the last five years. The community, I was informed, reacted appropriately to the sacrilege and desecration of the ancient tradition. Land speculation is one-for-ten-naira in Benin City. But no one has been bold enough to touch a square metre of Uselu traditional ground, where successive Omo N’oba N’Edo, Obas of Benin are crowned! That is the tradition; that is the culture of the people. The Oba of Benin is not just an Uku Akpolokpolo. He is the deity himself. And he is so revered.

What is the place of anointing oil when the blood of a goat is required? Why should anyone take holy communion for a problem that requires an oba to swallow a whole gourd (ado), that he can vomit and use when the occasion demands and re-swallow? How many obas were crowned using bottles of anointing oil? How many of them were installed in churches or mosques? Why the pretence? To install King Charles III, did the British royals not send for their ancient throne from Edinburgh? In the Old Testament, didn’t the Jews consult God by using the ephod – an ancient Hebrew instrument of priestly divination whose description perfectly fits the traditional security apron (BANTE) worn by Babalawos?

Why then should we be more Catholic than the Pope? We keep embarrassing Oduduwa thrones because of modernity or modernisation. What is the difference between the Psalms and the Yoruba àyájó, ofò and ògèdè (evocation, invocation and incantation)? A Christian speaks in tongues, a language that is only understood by the Spirit.  Another man recites àyájó, another set of esoteric language. Who among them is serving a “Living God”? As a Christian myself, and a Born Again for that matter, (you can argue with your keyboard), there are certain ‘practices’ and ‘doctrines’ I don’t participate in. No pastor can command me to hold my head stamp my feet and pray. I will simply not answer him. Why? I have seen those in my early life. I was in a Catholic church years ago for a baby dedication. When we went towards the altar to drop our offerings, the priest sprinkled water from one flask-like plastic container on us. I laughed within myself. During Otun Orangun (the final stage of our family deity), the Aoro Orangun (chief priest), also sprinkles water from the traditional pot on us. We call it: “a ti sasara boàgbo (dipping of hyssop into the concoction pot). What is the difference? Or, who will make heaven or not between the Aooro Orangun and the Catholic priest?

The Yoruba race must rise and defend its culture; its tradition. I read on Sunday that a new Olufon of Ile-Ifon in Osun State has been ‘elected’ in the person of Prince Wole Akinyooye. In the report, one of the contestants to the throne, Ademola Oyedokun, while congratulating the oba-elect, said that the oba-elect got the highest votes from the kingmakers of the town. That is an abomination. Kingmakers don’t choose obas in Yorubaland by voting. Ifa does. The roles of the kingmaker are to make sure that only the next ruling house presents candidates, that each candidate is subjected to Ifa divination, and that the one Òrúnmìlà picks is installed. We need to do it the way it is done so that it will sound the way it used to sound. Enough of these governor-appointed obas. The killing of Elesun and Olumojo is a big embarrassment. The early missionaries in my place sang then: Olúwa únbe bí t’àtijó (The Lord remains as of old), àwa la ò sin Baba bíi t’àtijó (We are the ones who are not serving God like the old). Nothing is wrong with our traditions and customs. We simply abandoned them to the shame of the race!


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