Olanrewaju Oyedeji, Ile-Ife
After several denials by the traditional council and Osun state government as regards the state of health of Ooni of Ife, the traditional council last week finally announced the demise of Oba Okunade Sijuade and proceeded to organize his funeral, Friday.
The Ooni of Ife died of an undisclosed ailment in a London hospital but the Chief Priest of the kingdom had denied the death of the Ooni immediately after the news broke on news sites and social media platforms that the Ooni had died in a London hospital.
The state government which had also announced the death of the Ooni of Ife was also compelled to disassociate itself from the reports of the death of Olubuse 2 on several occasions. It is now clear however that all of the earlier denials were in respect of customs and traditions which stipulate that only the traditional council can formally declare demise of an Ooni after necessary rites must have been performed.
Meanwhile notable Ife sons and residents have been reacting to the life and times of the revered Ife monarch. In his view, the media aide to Senator Omoworare Tunde Dairo said that “Oba Sijuade was a monarch of note, a father to all and one who was always ready to ensure peace in Nigeria”.
On his part, Comrade B.O Ifonedo, the registrar of Oduduwa University, Ipetumodu, Osun State described the late monarch as a man worthy of all respect. In his words: “Ooni was a father to all, full of fatherly words and always ready to develop the society”.
Meanwhile, the battle for succession has equally peaked. Traditionally, four families produce candidates for the stool of Ooni in Ife. They are the Lafogido, Giesi, Ogboru and Osinkola/Ademiluyi.
The just departed monarch came from the Ogboru family while the monarch before Oba Sijuade, Adesoji Aderemi came from Giesi family. With this, the Ademiluyi family is said to be the leading family in the race today and is therefore the one that is expected to produce the next monarch of Ife-land.
And within the Ademuliyi clan itself, Chief Adedoyin Raymond who is currently the Maye of Ife Kingdom is being touted to succeed the late monarch. The Difference investigations revealed that his formal emergence may really only now be a matter of time given that he is currently gaining widespread support amidst the ruling families and kingmakers.
To get to this stage however, the Ife Traditional Council had to formally announce the death of Oba Okunade Sijuade.
The chiefs, accompanied by the Crown Prince, Tokunbo Sijuade, announced the demise of the monarch while meeting with Governor Rauf Aregbesola at the Government House in Osogbo on Wednesday.
One of the chiefs, Oba Solomon Omisakin, told the governor that the Ooni had joined his ancestors.
Also speaking, Governor Rauf Aregbesola said the “late Ooni represented the Yoruba nation and has done a lot in uplifting the traditional institution in the state”.
Aregbesola, who read the last text message he received from the Ooni at the briefing, said the late monarch informed him of his frail health, adding that he was travelling to London for treatment.
According to him, the text read, “Your Excellency, I am still not feeling good, so I am travelling abroad for medical check-up; therefore I place your government under God’s guidance”.
He described the death of the Ooni as a great loss to the state and the Yoruba race, stressing, however, that a king could not die in Yorubaland.
Oba Solomon Omisakin, the Obalufe of Iromo and Vice Chairman of the Ife Traditional Council as well as High Chief Joseph Ijaodola, the Lowa of Ile-Ife, both corroborated what Sijuade said.
They expressed gratitude to the people of Osun and prayed that God would provide another king who would excel as the late Ooni did.
The press briefing was also attended by the Ooni’s daughter, Mrs Aderounmu Fadeyi and members of Ife Traditional Council.
The Lowa of Ife later broke the news traditionally when he came to the main entrance of the palace where he beat the gong and announced the demise of the Ooni to the public.
Before then, a movement restriction had been announced on Monday by the Awara of Iwara-Ife, Oba Layi Adereti.
The monarch, who was flown out in an air ambulance, died on July 28, in a London hospital.
The visit of the chiefs to the governor was the second in about 15 days since the media reported the death of the monarch.
The chiefs led by the Lowa of Ife, Oba Joseph Ijaodola, had on July 29th debunked the reports of the death of the monarch.
The following day, they took their rebuttal to the Government House where they briefed the governor and told him before journalists that the monarch was very much alive.
Earlier in the day, the Isoros were seen in some parts of Ile Ife singing dirges, which is one of the precursors leading to the formal announcement of the death of the Ooni.
The Isoros dressed in white clothes and carrying earthen pots embarked on a procession from outside the palace gate to Enuwa Square.