Reports of Ooni’s death, a ‘wicked rumour,’ chiefs tell Aregbesola
Ife residents prepare for the worst, stock food items
ALTHOUGH questions about the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade who was reported to have died on Tuesday, are still begging for answers, his chiefs are still firm in their belief that he is well.
But still, there are, as yet, no clear and definite proof as to his state of health, one way or the other, reports about which had sent shock waves throughout Ife and beyond. Crowds of his subjects had assembled in front of the palace, anxiously waiting to hear from sources they could believe about their beloved ruler.
However, the crowd had dispersed following repeated assurances from the palace and traditional chiefs that the Ooni was not dead. In fact, the chiefs yesterday visited the state Governor Rauf Aregbesola at the Government House where they told him to disregard the rumour about the passing on of, arguably, the foremost traditional ruler among the Yoruba.
They described such reports about the monarch as mere rumour fuelled by the wicked imagination of Ife detractors. But, if the chiefs had confirmed the worst, Ife residents had begun to prepare for the mandatory seven days of mourning.
Many had started stockpiling foodstuff since none of the markets would be open for business throughout the period.
An Ife indigene and Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules, Senator Babajide Omoworare was also in attendance at the meeting between Aregbesola and the chiefs.
The Lowa Adinula of Ife, High Chief Joseph Ijaodola, who is next in rank to the Ooni, led the chiefs during the visit and told Aregbesola they came to let him know that the news about the purported death of their ruler is untrue.
The Lowa said the visit was necessary to further clear the air and let the governor know the true position in Ile-Ife, stressing that the Ooni is “hale and hearty.’’
On Wednesday, Lowa had made similar denials of Ooni’s death, saying it was the handiwork of those he described as enemies of Ife. On his part, High Chief Ijaodola stressed that if such an incident had occurred, the Ife Traditional Council would be the first to know and then, break the news to the public.
Responding, Aregbesola agreed with the council’s claim and prayed for sound health and long life for the monarch. Meanwhile, when The Guardian visited Ooni’s palace yesterday, tight security witnessed on Wednesday had been relaxed but the main gate leading to the expansive palace was still shut.
Also, the large crowd waiting in the frontage of the palace had gone. The Guardian also noticed that commercial activities were going on smoothly while all markets were open for business in the town.
Though, the gate leading to the palace was shut, few security personnel, including the police and palace guards, were seen performing their duties.
Traditionally, once the death of the Ooni is announced, the three major markets: Oja Tutun, Oja Ife and the Goat Market, would be closed for at least seven days. Besides the markets, shops within the vicinity of the palace and all the areas within Enuwa, which is the area bordering the palace, will be closed for business.
A dealer in building materials, Solomon Adebayo said people have been buying food stuff to stock since information came that the markets may be closed for about seven days. “Within the seven days, people will not be moving around and our businesses will be affected,” he said.
A trader at Enuwa who identified himself simply as Fayemi, said his father was a traditional chief in Ife before his death and taught him all the traditional rites involved during the period of the passing away of any Ooni.
He said although markets would be closed and businesses would suffer, the importance of the Ooni of Ife removes any pain that might be suffered during the period of the traditional rites. “We do not mourn our traditional ruler, we celebrate his passing away. That is why we say eku ayo, when we greet those affected,” Fayemi said.
As at the time of filing this report, no condolence register was opened at the palace, a development which might have confirmed the position of the chiefs.
Just before he was flown out of the country to the United Kingdom, the monarch had intervened in the crisis between the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the management of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, leading to the suspension of an indefinite strike embarked upon by the union.