Ile-Ife Kingdom: Marriage of ancient and modern times

Ile-Ife Kingdom: Marriage of ancient and modern

By Dupe Olaoye-Osinkolu

Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi wearing the sacred Are Crown.

Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi wearing the sacred Are Crown at the Olojo Festival 2016.

The ancient town of Ile-Ife, Nigeria is believed to be the cradle of the Yoruba speaking tribe of South West Nigeria. History has it that Oduduwa, father of the Yorubas settled in Ile-Ife, a long time ago. An ardent believer in Olodumare (God) as known to the Yorubas. He taught his seven sons to worship and respect God, and to always seek clearance from him before taking any step. That informs the regular commune with Orunmila, through Ifa Olokun.

The modern day Ile-Ife, being ruled by an elite king, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi still worship and honour Olodumare through the important deities that have remained valuable till date. He also worship God in churches and mosques as occasions warrant. The Kabiyesi just celebrated his first Olojo festival on the throne with pomp. He entered seclusion for seven days, and on the seventh day, wore the sacred Are Crown.

Olojo festival commemorates the descent of Oduduwa to Ile-Ife. It is historically tied to the existence also, of Ogun, the powerful deity of Iron.

Ile-Ife kingdom threw its gates open to guests, both local and international as they all enjoyed being part of the ceremonies especially wearing of the Aare crown by the king which can only be done once in a year. Ooni Ogunwusi told this writer, that Olodumare, Yoruba name for God means, Olodu to mo Are – the special being that knows Are. Are is a crown with power for answering prayer, hence everyone prays for their wishes and

Theatre artistes, members of ANTP on a visit to Yeyemolu water well.

Theatre artistes, members of ANTP on a visit to Yeyemolu water well.

always have testimonies for answered prayer. So, Olojo day is a day, set aside for the worship of God, known to Yorubas as Olojo – owner of the day or Olodumare.

Olori Wuraola Ogunwusi during the grand finale of Olojo Festival.

Olori Wuraola Ogunwusi during the grand finale of Olojo Festival.

At this time in Ile-Ife traditional calendar, many of the guests pick interest in ancient history of the kingdom. This, however can not be completely told without a mention of Yeyemolu, a past queen of Ile-Ife.

Yeyemolu was a kind and remarkable woman. She was said to be full of support for her husband, the king, and all his activities. The sunshine in her beautiful life was however beclouded by a problem that even the Ooni could not solve, much as he tried. Yeyemolu could not bring forth a child. Yet, she played mother to all that passed through her and her husband.

At a point, she told the king to marry another woman in order to have children. The king at first, did not like the idea, for she loved Yeyemolu so much. He however succumbed to the pressure when she persisted in her plea.

The Ooni married a new wife. The wife gave birth to a child and everybody including Yeyemolu was happy.

One day, Yeyemolu called the king and said, “Kabiyesi, very soon, I will surprise you.” Her husband laughed, not knowing the kind of surprise.

Days later, Yeyemolu went missing. The king and his household searched for her but could not find her. A servant later came to the king to report a strange sight somewhere in the palace. The king went there and saw a well, as if freshly dug, at the spot in the palace. Everybody knew there was no well at the particular spot.

The Ooni sought intervention of Orunmila. The Ifa priest, after consulting with the oracle, told the king Yeyemolu is in the well. He ensured Ooni’s conversation with Yeyemolu, and she told her husband. “Kabiyesi, I chose to go this way. Anytime, anyone needs my attention, I will always be here. Let them just come here and talk to me with honesty of purpose, and drink water from this well, I will support them.”

The well has been there at the same spot inside the Ooni of Ife’s palace for several decades. An occurrence was however recorded during the reign of Ooni Okunade Sijuwade. The well has remained uncovered for ages, and Ooni Sijuwade decided to cover it. The chiefs advised against that action, but the king said it was necessary for hygiene purpose. The Kabiyesi therefore gave the job to a carpenter.

A nice cover was constructed for the well. After finishing the work, as the carpenter was about to lower the lid, to cover the well, his hammer fell inside it. The incident was reported to Ooni Sijuwade, who paid the carpenter, and he left.

The following day, the lid that was attached to the well, and the hammer that fell inside it were seen on the ground, close to the well. From that day, the well has never been covered again.

Surprisingly, this well has trees all around it, and the water has always been very clean. No leaf or particle has ever fall into it.

People still go there to converse with Yeyemolu till date. However, the well is not available for just anyone, only the friends of the royal family and acquaintances are allowed to go near Yeyemolu well.

Nigerians and other nationalities marvel at how the reigning king, Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi is able to marry the ancient tradition with his modern, giant development strides for the Ile-Ife Kingdom. He does the needful with ease, therefore improving the economic situation of the town and Osun State. Oba Ogunwusi’s activities, which include promotion of African culture and business initiatives,  are impacting positively on Nigeria, as the global black communities keep coming to him, claiming Ile-Ife ancestry. As they visit, they also extend invitations to the king for visits to their countries. He just returned from a tour of the United States of America.

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