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High Chief Adekola Adeyeye is the current Lowa Adimula of Ile-Ife – the third in command to the Ooni. He previously served as Sarun to the immediate-past Ooni, the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade. In this interview with BOLA BAMIGBOLA, the 66-year-old chief speaks about the coronation of the late Sijuwade and the important moments during the reign of the king
What is the place of Lowa Adimula in Ile-Ife?
The Lowa Adimula is the third in command to the Ooni of Ile-Ife.
When did you become the Lowa Adimula?
I was installed Lowa Adimula of Ife in 2017. Before then I had been an Emese (traditional messenger to Ooni) in the palace of Ooni since July, 1984.
When and where were you born?
I was born in Oguro’s compound, Enuwa Square, Ile-Ife on April 19, 1955.
Where were you on December 6, 1980 during the coronation of the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II?
I was living in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at that time, but I returned to Ile-Ife, and I witnessed the coronation of Baba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II as Ooni.
Were you working in Port Harcourt at the time?
Yes, I was into public transport business. I left Ife for Maiduguri in 1977; from there I moved to Sokoto and then to Port Harcourt. I later permanently returned to Ile-Ife from Port Harcourt.
Did you play any particular role in the coronation of Oba Sijuwade?
I only witnessed the event; I didn’t play any role at all. My late father, Adeyeye Adesiyan, was the representative of our family at the Ooni’s palace as of that time. That gave me the privilege to be in the palace and saw what happened that day. It was after the death of my father that I was picked as his replacement in Ooni’s court.
As the Lowa Adimula at that time, did your father play any role in the coronation?
Yes, he played a very vital role. My father spent 45 years with (the late) Oba Adesoji Aderemi (Sijwade’s predecessor) in the palace as an Emese. So, when Oba Aderemi passed on, my father was the Resa Emese and he was one of the most senior members of the Omirin Compound. He was among the people that led Baba Sijuwade through the traditional rites that he had to undergo. Before Oba Sijuwade could assume the stool of Ooni, he had to undergo certain traditional rites and my father was part of the process and witnessed everything.
Can you describe the mood of Ile-Ife at that time?
Seeing is believing, only those who were there can best describe it. In Ife, whenever a new Ooni is about to be crowned, the 16 Ife elders (Ife chiefs) will go to the entrance of the town to receive the Oba-elect. The Oba-elect will be brought by his relations and they will hand him over to Lowa Adimula (the third in command to Ooni), and then they will head for Ile Orunto Obalufe, that is the place he will be welcomed with water – you know that when a child is born, you welcome the child with water. After that, they would perform all the necessary traditional rites at Ile Orunto Obalufe. The Lowa will then lead the Oba-elect to meet the head of princes where he will be installed as the Sooko (head of princes in Ile-Ife).
My father, who was the Lowa Adimula at that time, witnessed all these things when Oba Sijuwade was to be installed. After all the rites had been concluded and the Oba-elect had undergone the three months of Ilofi (seclusion), the then new Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, came into the town in a crisp-looking caravan. He was inside the vehicle with the late Micheal Omisade Ogunniran, a popular politician at the time.
The convoy of several vehicles was led to the palace and all the dignitaries came down for the coronation. The crowd was so much that even if a pin fell, it would not get to the ground. Such a crowd had never been seen in Ile-Ife before the coronation of Oba Sijuwade. Everybody was happy to see the new king.
We thank God for his life. And that day he said some powerful things, one of which was that he wanted the progress of Ile-Ife. Before he became the Ooni, he had been doing a lot to ensure the progress of our town. I remember back then, as a prince, anytime electricity supply was stopped to the town over non-payment of bills by residents, then Prince Sijuwade would pay and electricity would be restored. If the town had any need that required money, he would also foot the bill.
You said Ooni Sijuwade rode in a caravan on the day of his coronation. Can you describe what that caravan looked like?
The vehicle was large. Its kind had never been seen in Ile-Ife before the then new king rode in it to town.
Can you remember some of the dignitaries that attended the coronation that day?
They were too numerous for me to mention their names one by one. (The late) Chief Bola Ige, who was the Governor of Oyo State then, attended the event in person. There were a lot of people from the North, especially Emirs and big players in the business world, as well as several influential people from the East. Many friends of the new Ooni also attended the event.
How many days did the coronation rites last and can you enumerate the processes?
I have mentioned a few of the processes earlier. After an Ooni-elect has been installed as Sooko, he will go to Ilofi (seclusion) and stay there for a little over three months. While in Ilofi, he will be communicating with his ancestors and all the spiritual heads of Ife will be empowering him till the end of the three months. Coronation is after he comes out of Ilofi.
Did any part of the coronation rites involve human sacrifice?
We don’t use human being for sacrifice in Ile-Ife, but there are many things involved when a new monarch is to be installed in Yorubaland. When the rites for the installation of new Ooni are on in the town, there are areas people are forbidden from going to and there are times of the day that people are instructed to stay indoors. The community will continue to announce these restrictions to the people as the process goes on. And there are repercussions for violators. It is not that such violators will gunned down or kidnapped for sacrifice, but when that violator sees what they are not supposed to see, they will also live with the consequences and pay dearly for their disobedience.
If anyone doubts and disobeys the instructions not to go out and says ‘I want to see what they are doing,’ even if the person hides in a corner to peep at the people performing the rites, anything can happen. But it is not like they are killing people before a new king is crowned; no!
What was the most significant aspect of the coronation?
There is none of the processes you can consider to be less important. In Ile-Ife, according to what we inherited, where you are supposed to use kola nut, if you use palm oil there, it won’t bring the desired result. So, all the rites that I have mentioned earlier are being observed since the time our town came into being. We observe them annually and there is none that is not important. We have 201 deities in Ile-Ife, Ooni is just the only one that we can see in human form and the only one that is talking. Others are cared for by the elders in the town.
It was said that the Queen of England sent representatives to the coronation. Can you recollect the message of the Queen to Ooni and did the Queen present him with any gift?
It is true. The Queen of England sent representatives but I can’t remember what the person said. The event was over 40 years ago. When my father died, I was nominated as Emese by my family to replace him in the palace. That was how I got back to the palace and I am still in the palace 41 years after. The Queen of England holds the Ooni in high esteem. When Ooni Sijuwade was alive, anytime we travelled to London, the moment we landed at the Heathrow Airport, they would have announced to other passengers that everybody should remain seated until the most respected person in the world comes down from the plane. As soon as we got out of the plane, there was a tarmac just beside the plane where we would take a lift and it would take us directly to the government vehicle that would have come to receive us. Queen Elizabeth respects the Ooni till today.
How many wives did Oba Sijuwade have as of when he assumed the throne?
He had only one wife when he became the king and that was Mama Tokunbo. But not too long after Baba ascended the throne, his wife died. After the death of his first wife, Baba married Olori Mori, Olori Ladun and Olori Odun, the daughter of the late Orangun of Ila, Oba Williams Ayeni.
Did he have to inherit the wives of his predecessor?
That is a must for the Ooni. The Ooni has to take care of everything his predecessors leave behind and ensure none goes bad.
Where were Oba Sijuwade’s parents at the time of his coronation?
His father was no more alive at the time of his enthronement as the Ooni, but the mother, Olori Faseesin Tinuade, was alive.
What roles did his mother play in the coronation?
Not any specific role. But you know Oba’s installation is a thing of joy; everybody, including parents, siblings and relations of the new Oba, will be busy taking care of their guests.
Can you remember what Oba Sijuwade was doing before he became king?
Baba was a popular businessman. He worked with UAC and Leventis, according to what he told us. It was Leventis that raised Baba till he became popular and God blessed him; he was a very wealthy man.
Were there things done during that coronation that are no longer done as part of coronation rites these days?
None, I was traditional ADC (Sarun) of Oba Sijuwade for 14 years, and I never left him for once during the period. So, there was nothing that was done for Oba Sijuwade that was not done for Oba (Adeyeye) Ogunwusi.
As the traditional ADC to Oba Sijuwade for that long, were there things he told you about Ife, Yorubaland and Nigeria that you still remember?
Traditionally in Ile-Ife, we don’t usually sit around to listen to history; we learn history everyday as events unfold. If an elderly person is doing something, the younger ones will observe patiently, that’s learning. All the things that Oba Okunade Sijuwade did in Ile-Ife and Yoruba kingdom, Nigeria and the whole world, I know a lot about them.
You once occupied the office of Sarun to Ooni Sijuwade. People used to say that a Sarun must die when an Ooni he serves passes on. What happened in your case?
I want to tell the whole world, that it is true on one hand, and it is not true on the other hand. What usually kills Sarun after the death of Ooni is trust and the secrets he shares with his boss. As Sarun, you must know everything about the Ooni and a Sarun can’t afford to tell a single lie to his boss. He has to be loyal and very honest.
Someone you have been with for years and served with all your energy, then the person suddenly dies, it may be difficult for you to handle the death. It is the spirit of the Ooni that kills the Sarun, if care is not taken. As I am talking to you, it was God that saved me. Like four to five years before Baba Sijuwade’s death, he promoted me from Sarun to the post of High Chief Agoro. So, I ceased being Sarun four years before the passing of Oba Sijuwade. Just imagine someone you trained and has seen the mystery of life with you and the Ooni just passes on, it becomes a problem for the Sarun to continue with life.
Despite the promotion I got, when Oba Sijuwade passed on, my world collapsed. I narrowly escaped death. God just spared my life. The last rite that will be performed before the departing Ooni is laid to rest must be performed by a chief called Jaaran, who is the head of Omirin. Coincidentally, I had been promoted to the post of Jaaran, at the time Oba Sijuwade passed on. So, I performed the last rite on him. That is the power of trust. It is like a covenant between the the Ooni and the Sarun. It’s powerful; trust is the reason why the traditional ADC of Ooni or Sarun will die (when the Ooni dies); (it is ) not that Sarun would be killed or used for money ritual.
It is the kind of thing that happens for some husbands and wives that love and trust each other so much. If one should die, the other may not survive for long.