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Ooni of Ife: The Exit of a Royal Elephant

Adimula Oba Okunade Sijuwade Ooni of Ife died but his legacy still lives on. Our contributor Olaleye Akintola takes a look at his fruitful and extraordinary life.

In the typical Yoruba West African Setting, the elephant is dubbed a juggernaut of the jungle. Its massive size and majestic clout announces its exuberant presence.   The elephant isn’t an unacknowledged authority. Its earth quaking expedition makes it a cynosure of all eyes.

True, like the alluring proverbial elephant- crowned a king at birth and exited as an icon, the passage of Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubushe II, in July, opens and seals another eventful chapter in the history books of the Yoruba race, and the world by extension.

wpid-ooni-of-ifeA Royal was born

Officially, Adimula Oba Okunade Sijuwade was born on January 1, 1930. He rose to become the 50th Ooni of Ife at the age of 50, on December 6, 1980, adopting the cognomen, Olubuse II. Like a royal colossus, at age 30, his strides in public and private businesses transcended the coast of sub-Saharan Africa, earning him accolades as a famed business whiz kid.

Yes, Sijuwade’s title,  Arole Oodua(regent of the progenitor of the Yorubas), places him on world’s pedestal , as a monarch with teeming subjects in far-flung corners of the globe -from  Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Portugal, Haiti, to several countries in Africa.

Aside from being the cradle of the Yoruba progenies in Southwestern Nigeria, Ile- Ife in Osun state ,the seat of power of the Ooni of Ife, is ‘notionally’ believed by the Yorubas, to be the first site of creation, where Eledumare(God) first experimented the creation of humans and the world.

Historically, as the Yoruba cradle, Ile-Ife is steeped in endless myths, and the ancient town prides itself as a custodian of countless pantheons, for about 401 deities, worshipped all year round. Prominent among the festivals, playing host to the world is the annual Osun/Oshogbo festival.

Susan Wenger became a priestess

Austrian Girl as Odunni Olarisa

Obviously, as a fountain head, most celebrated world researchers and adventurers, like Susan Wenger from Austria, got strongly attracted to nature and specifically to trees, in Osun state of Nigeria, from where she was said to have recognized the images of sacredness.  Wenger (Adunni Olorisa), later assumed the position of a priestess in notable shrines in Oshogbo and Ile-Ife, making Nigeria her home.

As a young Austrian girl, Wenger began her sojourn in Nigeria in the 1950s during a chance visit to the famous Osun –Oshogbo grove, that became a defining moment in her life, until her death.  Wenger represented a bridge between European and Yoruba cultures.

Indeed, African kings like the Ooni of Ife are immortals; they live forever in the hearts of their subjects, and their memories, handed down to posterity, whether for good or evil.

Though the departed Oba Sijuwade has since been buried according to customary right, At the monthly meeting of the Association of Yoruba Progressive Community in Bayern, Germany, the President of the group, David Bukalo, eulogized the monarch for indefatigably contributing in no small way, to preserving the virtues, antiques, customs and beliefs of the Yoruba people, adding that his exit is a colossal loss, not to Yorubas alone, but the world .


By Olaleye Akintola

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