Alaafin / Ooni feud and Yoruba unity

Recently, the Yoruba gathered in Ibadan where they alleged marginalisation by the Federal Government among other issues affecting the people as a race. The gathering was to counter a similar one earlier held in Ikenne, Ogun State, by another set of people within the same race. It would have been a different ball game, if the same set of people that attended the Ikenne meeting had come to the Ibadan gathering. But it was glaring that virtually all the notable leaders that attended the Ikenne meeting stayed away from the Ibadan assembly. Still, there are some who were neither at Ikenne nor Ibadan, but whose stake in Yoruba agenda cannot be compromised. So, definitely, there is lack of unity of purpose.

Though, the two meetings acknowledged the need to speak with one voice, none of them really hit the nail on the head on how to go about forging this much-needed unity among the acclaimed highly-sophisticated people.

While the differences between some of the leaders could not be divorced from party politics, what about the traditional rulers who don’t see eye to eye? While Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, travelled all the way from his base in Ife, Osun State, to Ikenne, both the Alake of Egbaland (Abeokuta), Ogun State capital, and Awujale of Ijebu-Ode were said to be absent. Principally, for several years, both the Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III have been in superiority contest. Rather than abate, it continues to degenerate.

Yet, it is among the wise sayings of these elders that snakes get killed because of their inability to crawl in group; that should python take the lead, followed by cobra and the smaller species, it is in great doubt if any man will have the audacity to confront them.

It may not at this level be ascertained the kind of relationship existing between the Alaafin and Ooni on one side and some of the other monarchs on the other. But in view of the strategic roles both Ife and Oyo occupy in the political history of the Yoruba, a healthy relationship between the two great monarchs will in no small measure ensure unity among the race. Unfortunately, as noted earlier, the animosity is daily getting deep-rooted.

This ugly situation informed the recently established committee, Yoruba Conflict Resolution Committee, led by Afe Babalola (SAN), the Aare Baamofin of Oyo Empire. In the committee are the Olugbo of Ugbo, HRM, Oba Obateru Akinruntan; the Ajogbu of Araromi Obu Kingdom, Ondo State, Oba Aderemi Adelola; the Owa of Ogbagiland, Oba Victor Adetona; and the Olotu Omooba, Leye Ashaye (secretary-general). After several attempts to see Alaafin, the committee succeeded, at the personal intervention of Babalola, in meeting with the Oyo monarch in his palace in the presence of the Oyomesi (kingmakers), Baales, princesses, some Oyo community leaders, among others.

As pointed out earlier, it was at the earlier Yoruba Assembly at the residence of the matriarch of the Awolowo dynasty, Chief (Mrs.) H.I.D. Awolowo at Ikenne that the absence of many prominent Yoruba monarchs was noticed and it sparked off controversy. According to Oba Akinruntan, “it is our belief that nothing could be achieved without the Alaafin of Oyo, the Awujale of Ijebuland, the Alake of Egbaland, among others in attendance at the meeting; so, the committee had to visit the leading Yoruba monarchs including the Alaafin, to collate their grievances and proffer lasting solution to the perennial leadership crisis. The committee had earlier visited Alake, Awujale and Olubadan, but believed that the Alaafin was a major factor in the resolution effort.

Oba Akinruntan thanked the Alaafin for hosting the committee’s delegation, disclosing that he was part of the maiden meeting at Ikenne, where the Ooni of Ife was, but said he refused to attend the subsequent meetings because all the relevant monarchs, who were to be at such a meeting, were not.

His words: “Because of the controversy my observation at the meeting caused, the committee decided to organise meetings with the relevant Obas in order to achieve our aim of resolving all the conflicts tearing the unity among the Yoruba people apart. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed about 700 ministers and aides, with only four Yoruba among them. This is grossly inadequate. So, if the Alaafin leads and the Ooni, Awujale, Alake and others follow, things will be better for us as a people.

“Northern emirs and leaders know how they handle their differences without washing their dirty linen in public. The Sultan of Sokoto is not the eldest, but the Hausa tradition recognises him as the leader. This conflict in Yorubaland must stop. We had been to the Ooni, Alake, Awujale, Olubadan and we thank God that Alaafin has accepted us through the influence of Aare Afe Babalola.”

While noting that the status of all monarchs could be distinguished according to historical records, the Ondo monarch blamed the conflicts on many people in Yorubaland, who would always struggle to make themselves leaders without deserving it. Pleading with the Alaafin to cooperate with the resolution committee, the Olugbo promised that the committee “will collate all the facts from all the Obas, and with Afe being our able chairman, we believe we are going to succeed at the end of the day”.

Babalola said he accepted the chairmanship of the reconciliation committee in order to bring lasting solution to the lingering disunity among many monarchs and leaders in Yorubaland.

According to the legal luminary, “Yoruba are a progressive people. Reports have had it that Yoruba have been marginalised. Obas need to unite and embrace peace, if politicians would not.

“Among the Igbo and the Hausa, there are known leaders working for the unity of their zones. That was why the people contacted me to woo the Alaafin to support the committee. They said I was the only one who could make meeting with the Alaafin possible, and I thank God for making it possible. I called the Alaafin on phone, and within three minutes, he shifted ground and agreed to meet the committee.

“How we will progress together on any issue that concerns Yoruba race is our priority. We cannot downplay the importance of Obas in Yorubaland and every Oba respects the Alaafin, and we know his importance in this project. This is the reason we have come today.”

Responding before he went into a closed-door meeting with the delegation, the Alaafin appreciated the delegation for the efforts being made, not for pecuniary reason, but for the overall good of the Yoruba people. He thanked Babalola for his exemplary industry in all his endeavours, praying that the project would be fruitful.

“I regard you all for this visit, while praying that the overall objective of the meetings be successfully achieved,” Alaafin said.

After the closed-door meeting, both Babalola and the Alaafin said the meeting was indeed successful and that it would be a springboard for the attainment of unity among the people of the entire Yoruba race and their monarchs, as well as for peace and harmony among their subjects.

Similarly, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), at its last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Ibadan, said it was not healthy for the two foremost monarchs in Yorubaland (Ooni and Alaafin) not to be in unity.

The YCE, also known as ‘Igbimo Agba Yoruba’ led by the Asiwaju Yoruba, Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), said it had discovered that there had been deep-seated disagreement between the two great monarchs, even before the issue of Oranyan festival (the latest controversial issue between Ife and Oyo) came up, but disclosed that it was on the top of the situation.

Funny enough, everybody among the race seems concerned about the issue of unity, as the YCE also noted it in the communiqué read after the meeting by its assistant secretary-general, Prof. Bayo Olateju. The Council reiterated its commitment to the unity of Yoruba both at home and in the Diaspora and urged Yoruba politicians to always seek the good of the people without political party affiliation.

YCE also noted the marginalisation of the Yoruba in the affairs of the country and insisted that the situation must not be allowed to continue in the interest of justice and fairplay, stressing that the marginalisation “is noticeable in every Federal Government agency and we want to ask for our particular offence to be so treated”.

As laudable as all these efforts seem, the big question to ask is: how far can they go in bringing about the desired peace between the Ooni and Alaafin, nay the Yorubaland? Just last week Saturday, in the ancient city of Oyo, the almost one week controversy over the celebration of Oranyan festival came to a close with a bombshell by the newly-appointed Balogun of Oyo Empire, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, who said “there is no Oba in Ife, what we have is ‘Abore’ (priest)”.

The maiden celebration of the Oranyan Festival had generated controversy with Ife describing the hosting of the festival by Alaafin as a misnomer.

Spokesperson for the Ife community, Oba Adebolu Fatunmise, Adagba of Iyanfoworogi, had said that before any Oba in Yorubaland could worship a deity like Oranmiyan, he should first contact the custodian of the deity which is Ile-Ife. Justifying the superiority claim of Ife to the deity, Oba Fatunmise had said, “the new contraption, which they describe as metropolitan Oyo, only came into existence in 1836 under the leadership of Prince Atiba who they later made the head, that is the nucleus of the Alaafin you have today”.

Olunloyo, the second executive governor in the old Oyo State had in his acceptance speech as the Balogun of Oyo dabbled into the acrimony between Alaafin and Ooni as well as the age-long feud between the monarch and his kinsmen at Isale-Oyo.

According to him, the controversies that had trailed the festival were unnecessary, because, “Alaafin is the Sango; he is the Oranyan; he is the real Sango. The Oba in Ife is not an Oba; he is an Abore (priest), though he is my personal friend, he is my in-law”. On the perennial feud between the monarch and his Isale-Oyo chief (Ashipa), Olunloyo said there was nothing like Ago-Oja which the Ashipa was laying claim to as the original title of the compound, noting: “Ashipa was misled; there is nothing like Oloja of Ago-Oja”.

To an observer, the outburst of Olunloyo described as reckless and unguarded might have put spanner in the works of the Babalola-led reconciliation committee.

“If Ooni is Abore as the former governor made us to believe, who is the king of the ancient town of Ife, because it is an established fact that Abore in any Yoruba town is never the traditional ruler?” the observer asked just as he picked hole in the new coinage of ‘Oyo Empire’ by the Alaafin, willing to know where the acclaimed empire starts and ends in the context of 21st century Yoruba nation? The observer was of the opinion that truly, “it is in unity that the desired progress and development can come to Yorubaland. Unfortunately, with the likes of Dr. Olunloyo, genuine efforts of some concerned leaders like the one being championed by Babalola may not produce the necessary result. Invariably, the younger generation will be worse for it.”

The first ever Oranyan Festival climaxed in Oyo penultimate Saturday with the appointment of Olunloyo, an Ibadan man, as the Balogun of Oyo Empire.

Announcement to this effect was made on behalf of Alaafin by the retired Archbishop of Methodist Church, Nigeria, and an Oyo prince, Ayo Ladigbolu, to round off the week-long programme.

Ladigbolu had said that everybody should listen to the message sent him by Alaafin to the effect that “Engr. Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo has been appointed as the Balogun of Oyo Empire” to which the gathering erupted in wild applause.

In his acceptance speech, the new Balogun thanked the Oyo monarch for the honour done him, with a pledge that whatever is expected of him as a chief of the town would be done to the best of his ability.

By Oladele Ogunsola

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