The condition of the highly revered throne of the Ooni of Ife is being variously assessed again after an incident involving the Ooni and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the coronation of the Oniru of Iru in Lagos became pictorial and video footage report massively circulated on the social media.
The picture and the video footage show the Ooni, in his usual modest disposition to life, pausing to show courtesy to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the senator returning the courtesy rather uncouthly. Various commentators have taken to the social media to remark the incident from different cultural perspectives. Many have concluded that the Ooni’s humble posture while greeting the senator was rather lowly and unwarranted while many think otherwise. Several others held the opinion that Senator Tinubu was arrogant to have openly disrespected the Ooni. Yet many applauded the humility of the Ooni and rebuked the senator for acting the lord of the manor in total disregard for the good gesture of the Ooni who, in traditional cultural terms, is his father and leader.
The raging controversies surrounding the incident present an opportunity for the present writer to broadly remark public appearances of the Ooni and ways in which the public have been critically receiving the humble dispositions of His Imperial Majesty.
How should the Ooni make public appearance? No answer to this question can be satisfactory given that different circumstances in today’s world would always make different demands on the most ancient throne of the Yoruba people. Recall that gone are the days when the Ooni would live a life of total seclusion and still be able to oversee the affairs of the world placed under his watch. The hermetic universe is long gone! It is the era of modernity with its multifarious complications! It will not surprise if the simple commonsensical logic of the answer snappily offered here would not appeal to those who think the operative techniques of the institution of the Ooni should remain unchanging, the wild sweeping storms of modernity across the globe notwithstanding. Forget about assuaging the curiosity of such people. It won’t work.
Unfortunately, a motely crowd of commentators on the Ooniship stool is constituted of mischief-makers who simply rejoice in creating rumpus and nothing else. Such mischief-makers exist though in a number so infinitesimal but unfortunately as a potent force poised to pollute any environment of reason. This category of people makes the worse kind of abhorrence. And to say the least, it rudely assaults reason to find some Yoruba kings in this kind of category of commentators on the Ooniship stool as events in recent times have shown.
To avoid dealing broadly with proper and improper attitude towards the Ooni because of time and space, let us focus a little on the recent topical incident. Hopefully there will be time and opportunity to address the double-edged subject in greater detail in the future. The following are questions extrapolated from diverse commentaries on the latest incident involving the Ooni and Senator Tinubu: Was the Ooni duly invited to the Oniru’s installation? Must the Ooni be there even if he was duly invited? Why did the Ooni have to greet Senator Tinubu at all? If he must greet the senator, did he have to show him so much respect? Why did Senator Tinubu remain pompously seated as the Ooni greeted him? Has the Ooni not further desecrated the throne by taking bullshit from Senator Tinubu? And many more
In the whole of this, what I see as real issues are two: 1. The sincere concern showed by the scions of Oodua for the sanctity of their most revered stool which Ooni Babatunde Ogunwusi occupies. 2. How the concern showed by the Ooduans is felt and shared by the Ooni. Recall here again that the Ooni holds the position he occupies in trust on behalf of the Oodua people worldwide. Therefore, in the modest opinion of the present writer, Senator Tinubu’s attitude, whether deliberate or not, should not make a topical issue as much as the two issues highlighted if our concern with the safety of our most revered throne will be a serious one. This is because we all know the kind of mess modern-day politicians have always thrown up and how they revel in ignominy, being power-mongers.
As Ben Carson observes, politicians generally are the problem of society. Unfortunately folks have been conditioned to see them as solution to their problems. Nigerian politicians are the worst kind on the planet earth. Then, if we are to list top Nigerian politicians, who would fail to mention Tinubu within the first five. Nigerian politicians are unique for having the penchant to blindly exploit meager resources of the people regardless of the worsening condition of life of the people.
Rather than allow what seems a political bait of Senator Tinubu to attract attention for whatever private or political reason(s), the scions of Oodua who have stood up in defence of the stool of the Ooni should be applauded. The Ooduans should “move forward together” and avoid being distracted by baits of power-mongers and mischief-makers of any kind. It is important to learn from Henry Ford’s dictum: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”. The Yoruba need to uphold this philosophy of progress, particularly now.
Happily, before the recent massive defence of the throne of the Ooni, Chief Gani Adam had remarkably recognized the Ooni’s worthiness as father to all Oodua people. The occasion was the special session of Oodua festival 2020 for the Oodua People’s Congress’s members worldwide and Chief Gani Adam’s paying of obeisance as a mark of reverence for the Ooni was a spectacle to behold on the auspicious day. Chief Adam alongside his Oodua People’s Congress’ followership gave Yoruba history a bit of truer and more purposeful orientation. Suffice to say that what we need most especially at his time is more of such culturally and historically correct attitude.
What is being witnessed as reactions to the supposed belittling of the Ooni’s position by Senator Tinubu resonates with two instances of massive opprobrium in defence of the Ooniship stool not too long ago. The first was that of a great multitude of the Yoruba people that greeted the Oba of Lagos’ uncouth public disposition to the same Ooni sometime ago. The other one was that against an immodestly fabricated code of conduct that was supposed to guide how Wasiu Ayinde (the Fuji musician) would show regard to any Yoruba Oba after his controversial installation as the Mayegun of Yorubaland by the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. And what was the lie being sold to the public as a traditional code of conduct for the Fuji star? He was never to prostrate for any Yoruba Oba again! The two instances cited ignited the anger of great multitudes of the Yoruba people and served as test cases for the amount of value they attach to their traditional rulership institution. The authors of balderdash in both instances were forced to make quick amend.
From the illustrations here, the Yoruba have been rallying support for the Ooni while the throne has also proved to be a rallying point for the Yoruba across the globe in their bid to ‘move forward together’ in a purposeful manner. But will this trend endure? How can this positive development be sustained? Something tells me prospect for success in this regard would depend on how the Yoruba appreciate Ooni Adeyeye’s adoption of humility as a strategy of fatherly relation across different spheres of life. Many keen observers of Ooni Adeyeye will vouch for his conscious deployment of humility as a strategy of leadership. This is not difficult to know. His kind of humility is an attribute being strangely affixed to the throne of the Ooni. No doubt, Ooni Ogunwusi is an innovator of diverse interests – one driven by single-minded commitment to set goals. As a conscious innovator, he exudes readiness for the burden that goes with being innovative. This burden, in the words of Jeff Bezos, is “the willing[ness] to be misunderstood”. Severally, Ooni Babatunde the son of Ogunwusi of Giesi royal lineage of Ife has been misunderstood. Yet, the humble and amiable surrogate of all gods and goddesses of the Yoruba forges ahead, knowing quitters never win and winners never quits.
Let us strengthen the point being made with a recount of some instances of skepticism marking Ooni Adeyeye’s ascension to the most prestigious throne of the Yoruba. It was speculated that the new Ooni would be a stooge of the influential politician, Senator Tinubu. The speculation was that he would not be able to act in the full capacity of the Ooni, the father of all Yoruba and their kin known by other names both within and outside Nigeria. The reason adduced in reinforcing the speculation was that Ooni Ogunwusi would turn out to be slavishly indebted to the powerful politician whom the speculators believed was instrumental to his ascension to the throne.
But on the contrary, the Ooni has not only proved the speculation wrong but has achieved rare feats and promised lots more within less than five years, all like play like play. I mean in spite of ‘comedy skits’ that a commentator recently pointed out as the Ooni’s major preoccupation, Ooni Ogunwusi has moved mountains and plumbed the wild, all for the good of the Yoruba home and abroad.
The most laudable achievement of Ooni Ogunwusi, in the opinion of the present writer, is his proclivity to rally the Yoruba of all shades, home and abroad, for the unity and progress of their land and country. His impact and investment also cut across diverse areas such as cultural security and promotion, national integration and conflict resolution, international linkages for micro and macro-economic growth, political tolerance in spite of multi-party politics, youth development and empowerment, tourism development and promotion of academic researches, promotion of unity across Yorubaland and beyond, restoration of racial pride through direct diaspora relations, revitalization of valuable traditions, and heritage recovery and safekeeping. Just name it!
No doubt, Ooni Ogunwusi is a trailblazer and this has endeared him to many all over the world. His love for his Yoruba people has earned him his people’s love in multiple folds. This is beautiful story. Unfortunately not everyone enjoys stories laced with melodious tunes. Those who hate happy stories like this prefer the tragic versions. Where providence has not introduced tragic interludes or moments, they force one into it to please their sadistic ego.
Though this writer would not want to make a big issue of Tinubu’s supposed uncouth attitude towards the Ooni, it is discomforting that high profile individuals of Yoruba extraction could be found lacking in basic cultural norms. If those of Oba Akiolu and Senator Tinubu are known today, that the Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi has not reciprocated the kind gestures of the Ooni and seems to be on an opposing side to the Ooni may be a pointer to more to come. Can we also pretend there is no ‘cold war’ between the Ooni and Governor Oyetola of Osun State? The connecting line of these oppositions reveals recurrent subterfuge which may mar Yoruba unity that we all have been clamoring for.
Finally, for those who blame the Ooni for being too humble and Tinubu for being very arrogant, my submission is that arrogance is an albatross and humility is not without its own burden. Whoever cares should learn. A leader who does not want to fail would constantly remember: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”, says John F. Kennedy.
Signed: Opa Loogun Osin, 29 Edema Street, Lafogido, Ile-Ife.