There is no doubt that all past Oonis specifically from the time of Oranmiyan, 6th Ooni of Ife have been men of means, glamour and commanding personality. Oranmiyan was a warrior and reputed to be a great administrator with tremendous influence across Yorubaland. Oranmiyan strengthened the Benin Kingdom traditional institution and is still being honoured in that kingdom till date.
He established the traditional institution in Oyo Kingdom and his descendants still rule the kingdom to date. In appreciation of the role of Oranmiyan in the founding and establishment of the Kingship of Oko Land (modern day Osile Oke-Ona , Egba) the incumbent King, Alayeluwa Oba Adedapo Tejuoso bears the appellation ORANMIYAN. I once asked him why the appellation, Oba Tejuoso elucidated on the type of person Oranmiyan was and why he should be emulated. He was described as a fearless, upright and inimitable leader with tremendous wisdom which enabled him to rule with fairness and earned the respect and love of his people.
Since the time of the Olubuse the first in the early 20th century, the leadership position of the Ooni of Ife among traditional rulers in Yorubaland is indubitable. In fact, all other Yoruba Obas were said to have stayed outside their various palaces when, for the first time, the first Ooni Olubuse travelled outside his domain to Lagos to meet the colonial Governor General at that time.
Oba Adesoji Tadenikawo Aderemi who became 49th Ooni in 1930 was a king to be reckoned with. He commanded respect and was seen as the leader of all Yoruba Obas. He was the permanent Chairman of the Western Region’s House of Chiefs until the creation of three states from the old western Region. In the old Oyo State, he was the first Chairman House of Chiefs and remained so without any objection from other Yoruba Obas until his transition in 1980.
I witnessed the coronation of late Oba Okunade as a form 3 pupil in Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife sent among several others to represent the school during the coronation. We were to line the routes to the coronation venue in our school uniforms. It was the first time I would witness a coronation and be part of the crowd that witnessed the installation. It was a memorable occasion as for the first time as well, I saw the then Oyo State governor, Late Chief Bola Ige, my idol, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the array of personalities that stormed Ile-Ife for the coronation.
The reputation of Late Oba Okunade as a wealthy and influential person was proven on that date and I prayed that I would one day be as rich and reputable like him. Six years on the throne, I became a regular visitor to the palace and through my mentor, Mr. Funmiloila Olorunnisola, the Press Manager then and my active and rewarding involvement in the affairs of the town, I became very close to Oba Sijuade.
He was indeed an Oba of Obas, wealthy, gracious, sartorial, and resplendent. He was golden in appearance, carriage and personality. The palace became a mecca of sort to Yoruba leaders and was in fact the Headquarter of the Yoruba nation. Every Ife indigene was proud to be an Ife. He lifted Ife and projected the image of the town to the extent that Yorubas, wherever they may be, saw Ile-Ife as their own.
This is a position where we need a man to fill. Will he just be a man? He must be an original man imbued with the leadership trait of Oranmiyan, possess the charisma and wisdom of Oba Aderemi and have acquired the panache, sagacity and wealth of Oba Sijuade.
The process to select that original man started immediately the transition of the late Oba was announced. All manners of people from all over the world who have a link with the royal houses in Ife returned home. Some solicited for funds from their friends and associates in their locations to be in Ife and contest for the Ooni of the Source. Many have forgotten that Ile-Ife is the cradle of the Yorubas and thought that becoming the Ooni is a childsplay. Emerging configuration have started to show that the stool is for the well bred, matured, God fearing and influential personality who must stand out from the crowd to be seen and recognised not just as an Oba but as the Ooni in Yorubaland.
Several names have been posted and I wish to state as a stakeholder, that Ife and the position of its kingship is owned by the entire Yoruba people as they would always look up to the occupier of that throne as the father and leader. Far beyond the confine of Ile-Ife is the authority of the Ooni. Therefore, the throne requires a decent , charismatic, receptive personality with tremendous wisdom and quality sense of judgement.
The selectors of the occupier of the throne must realise the importance of the stool as traditional kingmakers. They must not succumb to pettiness and should be fair and objective. They must realise that they are writing history and should be conscious that their tomorrow is bigger than today. It is also pertinent for them to know that the contemporary demands regarding their assignment is for them to be all ears and show responsibility attached to their call. They must give us the Ooni the people deserve. The Kingmakers should not be self serving and be seen as incorruptible representatives of the people. They must be aware that the entire Yoruba race have greater expectations from them.
As the world expects the next Ooni to sit on the throne of his forefathers, nobody is interested in the royal house that will produce him as that is the issue limited to Ife, the original man being awaited is expected to start from where Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse ii stopped.
Mr. Lawrence Omidiora, GM , Ikeja Golf Club, wrote from Lagos.