Controversies Surrounding OOni’s Death Lingers as Giesi Ruling House Set to Take over the Throne
The family that may produce the next Ooni of Ife may already be a done deal, going by a 1980 declaration on chieftaincy affairs by the Oyo State Government.
The family, Giesi, is third in line among the four ruling houses in the kingdom believed to be the cradle of Yoruba ethnic nationality.
However, the chiefs of the ancient town on Sunday restated their position that the foremost monarch, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, is still alive although he was conspicuously absent at the wedding of one of his children held on Sunday, 2nd August 2015 at the Landmark Events Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
At the traditional wedding ceremony, no mention was made of Oba Sijuwade or the rumor swirling about his health. What was noticeable was his staff of office that was conspicuously carried by a man who stood close to the couple.
Also, staff of the United Kingdom Hospital where he was reported to have passed on last week have restated their position that they have no information about him, dead or alive.
Meanwhile, intense lobbying by prospective candidates for the stool has begun.
A declaration document signed and sealed in 1980, obtained by Infotrust, spells out which of the four houses should produce the next Ooni.
The document, which was forwarded for approval on 14 September, 1979 and was signed on 28 January, 1980 approved the rotation of the stool among the Oshikola, Ogboru, Giesi and Lafogido ruling houses, in that order.
The document had been prepared under the reign of the late Oba Adesoji Aderemi who was from the Oshikola ruling family. The late Oba Okunade Sijuwade was a product of the Ogboru ruling house.
The declaration document was signed by then Chairman of Chieftaincy Committee of Oranmiyan Local Government; Secretary of Chieftaincy Committee of Oranmiyan Local Government; one P. O. Olaniyi for the Secretary of Oyo State Government of Nigeria and the state governor at the time.
Infotrust authoritatively gathered that the remaining two royal houses that have not produced the Ooni have begun a series of meetings to have consensus candidates when the demise of the monarch is eventually pronounced by the palace.
Two sources from the Giesi and Lafogido ruling houses confirmed the royal families’ interest in the throne.
“It is true that we had family meetings and part of the issue we discussed is the house that is entitled to be the next Ooni, but we are not sure of Oba Sijuwade’s condition for now,” one of the sources said.
In a related development, members of some of the royal houses have reportedly begun to lobby government sources and other politicians in the state.
A source among the royal houses disclosed that aspirants to the stool of Ooni have been sending emissaries to prominent politicians in Ile-Ife and the state government to favour their candidacy.
“No one has the right to come out fully as an aspirant for the time being because no official announcement has been made. If the Kabiyesi is truly dead, the Lowa of the traditional council will do the announcement. But lobby has begun, politicians and even the governor have started getting emissaries,” the source said.
In the meantime, the Chief Priest of Oduduwa and Obadio Agbaye Orisun of Yoruba land, Oba Farotimi Faroba, has dismissed the reported arrival of remains of Oba Sijuwade, to Ile-Ife. The news media was at the weekend awash with reports of the arrival of the remains of the monarch.
At the wedding ceremony of Ooni’s son in Lagos on Sunday, Oba Sijuwade was conspicuously absent.
Faroba told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Ile-Ife that the Ooni was hale and hearty.
He said: “Ooni is hale and hearty, and that is to confirm to you that nothing has happened to him. And if he is still alive why the rumuor that his remains have arrived in the ancient town? Ooni’s death cannot be hidden.”
Faroba added: “Assuming his reported death is true, you will notice crowd at the main palace gate, while the gate would be locked and no one will be allowed to enter. Also, the Oduduwa chief priest will announce the demise of the Ooni upon sounding of a bell at Enuwa square located in front of the palace. After the announcement, all the trees in the market would be cut; markets would be closed while all forms of merrymaking such as drumming or partying would be suspended in town for a number of days.” he explain.
Faroba said since Ooni is still alive there was no need to perform any of the rites.
Meanwhile, a group, The Cradle Youths (TCY), has urged indigenes of Ile-Ife not to be anxious over the circumstances surrounding the Ooni, saying that the traditional council knows the right thing to do.
The co-ordinator of the Ile-Ife based group, Mr. Kunle Elusayo, said this in a statement issued at Ile-Ife and made available to journalists on Sunday.
Elusayo, who commended the Traditional Council for their roles, explained that there are guidelines and traditions to be followed.
He explained that only information circulated by the traditional council should be followed, arguing that they have a customary law regulating the selection of who becomes the next Ooni, if the need arises.
He added, “The traditional council is in the right position to say anything concerning the status of the Ooni. People should wait and respect the position of our tradition; history will not forgive anyone that betrays our tradition and law. If at all anything happens to the king, God forbid, the declaration made under section 4 (2) of the Chiefs Law 1957 of Customary Law Regulating the selection the Ooni of Ife should be followed strictly.
He said the declaration was made on 14th day of September, 1979; approved 20th day of January 1980 and registered 26th day of January, 1980.
The group further urged the two persons entitled to select the Ooni title, Obalufe and Lowa through consultations with right and left Chiefs not to betray the trust imposed in them.
He quoted the declaration as saying, “There are four ruling houses, which have the right to provide candidate for the Ooni chieftaincy, and the identity of each of such ruling houses and order of rotation is a follows: Oshinkola House – which produced late Oba Aderemi; Ogboru House – Oba Sijuwade Okunade II; Giesi House and Lafogido House.
“The family whose turn is it is to provide a candidate shall be invited in writing to present their candidate or candidates from among whom the kingmakers shall select the most suitable person.”
Meanwhile, sources at the St Mary’s hospital in Paddignton, London, restated their position last week that they had no information about his death.
Records were checked, both against his name – Okunade Sijuwade – and age and one hospital staff member told Infotrust: “He’s not there, I’ve checked”.
Prior to that, another member of staff had also checked the records of those who died between Tuesday and Wednesday last week and said: “We don’t have anyone by that name on our records.”
The hospital sources noted that if that was actually the name given on admission, then “it’s not on our record.” When told that he is a wealthy Nigerian and could have been admitted with a different name, the sources said in that case, they couldn’t help or speculate what name was used to admit him into the hospital.
In a separate investigation on Saturday, a source close to the Ooni’s family stated that it “seems Kabiyesi – the King- is gone.” The source added: “Let him go and rest,” after initially reasoning that, if he’s not dead, as the palace is claiming, then he must be on a life support machine somewhere.”
The source described the situation at the monarch’s London home as leaning towards the death narrative. “Some family members have already gone back to Nigeria,” and besides, ” a delegation has arrived from Nigeria, and have taken over the arrangement from the family .”
The source added that the decision to fly the 85 – year old king to London was a mistake, arguing that he should have been treated in Nigeria.
“Why couldn’t they treat him at the National Hospital, Abuja or any of the best hospitals in the country? Flying someone who is diabetic, and at that age, was a wrong decision.”