Every action that expresses happiness and jubilation was on display amongst Ifa faithful in Ile Ife, Osun State last Wednesday at the coronation of the youngest ever crowned Araba Agbaye.
In what seemed like a carnival, a procession of the subjects of that kingdom began from Oke-Itase and was characterised by dancing to different songs of praises from different groups clad in different aso-ebi (uniforms). The people did not forget to add extolling words for the new spiritual head, His Eminence, Owolabi Aworeni, to their chants and songs.
The destination of the people, Oke Itase, where the Ifa Temple is located, according to Yoruba mythology, is believed to be the point where creation started. The all-white-painted building is strategically located on a hill that overlooks the entirety of the ancient and primordial town of Ile Ife. (Oke-Itase, Oke ta ti se wa, literally means the hill where we are created).
The coronation of Araba Agbaye, on the other hand, is a ceremony that most Ifa faithful witnessed once in a lifetime, a probable reason for the large turnout on this fateful day. The institution, which has the major role of fostering peace and unity in Ife, Yoruba Land, and the entire human race, is one of the most important institutions globally. And crowning a leader is expected to follow certain procedures.
On his part, the spiritual leader once crowned, has the sole responsibility of foretelling who would be the Ooni-elect upon the visitation of the kingmakers. He also foretells such events as when a prominent Yoruba person wants to receive Ida Ajase, sword of authority, from the Ooni.
Araba Agbaye installation rites usually takes days to commence after an individual has been pronounced as the Araba-elect by the entire Agiri descendant of Oke-Itase compound of Ife.
The first day, the elected person has to visit the home of the Agbongbon who is the second-in-command to the Araba. The Agbongbon presides over a meeting of Awo Olodumerindinlogun till the new Araba is crowned. The Agbongbon has to pray for the Araba elect and certain rites are performed.
The second day, the elect visits Agbongbon’s house and on the third day, receive Oja-wiwe (wearing of semi-scarf crown) from the Agbongbon’s house.
Receiving Oja-wiwe ends the rites of Awo Olodumerindinlogun. That same day, the Obalara of Obalufon team would take over the rites for the next three days when some rituals and rites needed, are performed. The Araba is finally crowned with his crown known as ORO on the sixth day. On the same day, the new Araba would lefin (put Ifin on his body).
At this year’s coronation, the street procession was peaceful even though it caused some traffic snarl, but that too was controlled by security operatives who mobilised the people to the place.
It was a herculean task to catch a glimpse of the new Araba inside the temple after the coronation had been done. A battery of reporters from different media organisations had their patience stretched as the entrance door was shut against them until an alternative route was created for access to the hall where the new leader was seated on his throne.
Incidentally, the hall had only the new leader and a few people. Looking calm in white attire with a green leaf tucked in his headwear, the Araba, who is 35-years-old, spoke like an elder who has seen it all. His voice and the content of his message was indicative of his new world as the number one citizen of Ifa denomination.
Aworeni spoke gently, but with much confidence and he challenged Yoruba people to work together for the unity of the ethnic group. He said that without unity, Yoruba would always play second fiddle, despite its huge human and capital resources among other ethnic groups that make up Nigeria.
“What we need in our region now is unity. We need to speak with one voice because we have similar cultural identity and share the same beliefs. We should work together as one so that we can achieve greatness as a nation. Eledumare has blessed us with all we need to be great.
“I have travelled to different countries and that exposure and experience makes me appreciate us better. Yoruba people are a leading light among black race all over the world. It is a blessing that we are Yoruba. We should therefore explore the opportunity well.”
The Araba implored traditional religions adherents to eschew bickering and disharmony among one another. He then urged them to be focused on propagating the religion they inherited from their forefathers.
Promoting culture and tradition, he noted, is their collective responsibilities as custodians who must always encourage the younger ones to study and practice the doctrines of Ifa traditional religion and Yoruba culture as a whole.
As his new status requires, he promised to stop at nothing to play a key role in uniting them with a view to consolidating the landmark achieved by his predecessor, who incidentally was his father.
“The standard which my father has set and passed on is such that I cannot afford to bring down. I must not only sustain it, but I must take it higher. I will continue to project Ifa religion and also ensure harmony among Yoruba people at home and in the diaspora.”
“In 2012, over 3000 white Ifa faithful in diaspora came to Ile Ife for World Ifa Festival Day. One of them told me then, that we don’t appreciate what we have but rather run after foreign things. Specifically, he said to my embarrassment that one day, Ifa would be repackaged for Nigerians and we will rush it because we believe in everything foreign.”
Araba Agbaye noted the attitude of other faiths that he alleged to be engaging in condemning traditional religion worshipers on radio and television in spite of the fact that Nigeria is a secular state. He regarded such practice as demonstration of ignorance and advised his followers to continue to tolerate them.
“Our religion means peace. So, we have no reason to derail from that path. I believe those ones don’t know that they should not be seen to condemn other religions. We are all Yoruba, children of Oduduwa, we cannot afford to use religious difference to fight one another.”
The traditional rites lasted for days at various traditional points. Araba Agbaye is said to be the symbol of Orunmila on earth.