The Araba Awo of Osogbo and prominent Ifa High Priest, Ifayemi Elebuibon, tells FEMI MAKINDE in this interview that there will be serious implications for new Obas and their families if the tradition of performing certain rites on their predecessors is stopped. The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, had stopped Osugbos (traditionalists) from hijacking the corpses of Ijebu Obas that pass on, for ritual purposes
What is the significance of the rites usually performed on an Oba before his coronation, particularly in South-West Nigeria?
That is the most important aspect of coronation. Any Oba who did not allow such rites to be performed for him is not different from an ordinary citizen. Such person is not an Oba in the real sense of it. The rituals of coronation are what make them superior to the ordinary people in the town. They must go into seclusion, learn so many things, communicate with their ancestors and they will be taught so many things. Even the crown is sacred; it is not an ordinary cap. So, any Oba who refused these rituals is not different from ordinary persons in the town.
These rituals are very important and they differ from town to town. Such rituals are extensive in some places and in some other places, they are not extensive. But it is important for anyone who wants to ascend the throne to go through them. He should communicate with his ancestors; the owners of the land. His safety is attached to these rites; his life is protected by Olodumare (Supreme creator), who ordained it. These rituals are what make an Oba to become a real Oba; otherwise, he is no more than an ordinary citizen. After the rituals, the Oba himself will know that he is no longer an ordinary human being but someone that has been transformed.
Why do they have to eat the heart, the tongue and other body parts of the departed monarchs before they ascend the thrones?
Ha! That is not true! The reason why some people say this is that some of these rituals and ceremonies are usually not performed in the presence of the uninitiated. The ‘Isoros’ and other traditionalists are the ones who perform the rituals and that is it. Any ceremony that you don’t allow people to witness, such rumours and lies are bound to trail it. That is also the reason why they say that the head of the late Obas are usually cut off before they are buried. Nothing is cut off!
Are you saying the ‘Isoros’ do not remove any body part of an Oba before they are buried?
They don’t remove any thing. It is true they used to say the new king je Oba (ate Oba), but they don’t use the heart of human beings any longer.
Did they use it in those days?
They prepared it in different ways and that varied from one place to another. There are some of our Obas that do not go through these rituals any longer. Some of them don’t even wear the traditional crowns; they claim the crowns are Orisa (spirits) and they would not wear them. We have problems with our modern Obas. We have a lot of problem with them because a lot of them do not respect the traditions any longer. They don’t respect even their ancestors; they want to be more Muslim than the Arabs and more Christian than those who brought the religion. We do tell them that we are not in Jerusalem or Mecca. Any Oba who wants to be a full Christian should go to Jerusalem and those who want to be full Muslims should go to Mecca or other places where Islam is their religion and culture. The Arabians and the Jews are not practising our religion. We are not saying that they (the monarchs) should not practise their religions but they should respect our culture. This is a serious issue in Yorubaland today. Some of the Obas have even abandoned the festivals of their towns because they claim to be Muslims or Christians.
For example, there is no religion without human sacrifice. Jesus (Christ) said he sacrificed himself to save his devotees. Ibrahim (or Abraham) also wanted to sacrifice his son, Ismaila (Isaac), before he was replaced by a ram. Orunmila also wanted to sacrifice his own son, Olomo, before he was replaced with a nanny goat. Since then, no one has been using human being for sacrifice. There are a lot of things our elite need to understand. As a race, if we abandon our tradition, it will lead to the loss of our identity. If you see an Indian and or a Chinese, you will see them celebrating their culture and we are living in the same modern society. But we Yoruba have a problem. Can you imagine having Yoruba Obas abandoning the festivals of their towns because they are Christians and Muslims?
What implication does this have for the Yoruba race?
The Yoruba believe that they put the burden of each town on the shoulders of the Oba. He is the one to carry the load for the people but when the king refuses to carry it; then, it is obvious that there will be consequences. Before anyone is selected, the oracle will be consulted to make sure that such a person has a good destiny that can help his subjects to live well and prosper. It is the destiny of the Oba that will make the town to be in peace and prosper. But if somebody with a ‘bad destiny’ is on the throne, his people would suffer hardship.