Why Oba Akiolu of Lagos greeted Ooni the Lagos way
* Contestation For Supremacy In Yoruba Land
On Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at the 22nd World Congress of Banking Institutes event, held at the Eko Hotels and Towers in Lagos, an interesting drama played out between the Ooni of Ife and Oba Akiolu of Lagos, to the surprise of everyone present. The action seemed to further lend credence to long speculations that all is not well among Yoruba Obas. The incident is also a further confirmation of Professor Anthony Asiwaju’s earlier submission that “the contestation for supremacy among Yoruba Obas will linger.”
On that particular day, a white chair had been reserved for the Ooni, who arrived late to the event. The chair was placed on the right side of Obi Nnameka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, while Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos was already seated to the left of the Obi. As the Ooni approached the hall, where the two kings and other guests were already seated, the Ooni’s “Emese” (traditional aids) rushed into the hall, as it is their duty to clean the seat reserved for the Ooni with their dresses. That done, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, strolled into the hall. But before taking his seat, he walked straight to where the Obi of Onitsha and Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos were already seated. He shook hands with and exchanged pleasantries with the Obi, after which he immediately moved towards Oba Akiolu to greet him, as he extended his right hand for a handshake, before returning to take his seat. To the surprise of everyone, however, Oba Akiolu coldly waved the Ooni off, as he refused to shake hands with him.
Guests and others at the occasion were a little bewildered, as they wondered what could have been the problem. It was, therefore, not unexpected, when the following day, the incident went virile on the social media.
And though The Palace Watch got in touch with one of the senior aids to Oba Akiolu to inquire what the problem was, but he declined to make comments.
Five days after the event, a Lagos white cap chief, Lateef Aderibigbe Ajose, who is the Opeluwa Onido of Lagos said: “the Lagos monarch did not ignore the Ooni of Ife at the public function, as is being misconceived by people. Oba Akiolu’s response to Oba Ogunwusi was the culturally acclaimed way of greeting by a monarch in Lagos, which is peculiar to Lagos State. Other tribes also have their peculiar ways of greeting. The sign by Oba Akiolu signifies ‘inu mi, inu e,’ a cultural way of greeting in Lagos.
“If Oba Akiolu wanted to ignore the Ooni’s greetings as being speculated, he would have turned his face away from him. There is no misunderstanding between both highly revered monarchs in Yoruba land.”
According to Ajose, the relationship between both Yoruba kings is peaceful and mutual.
He said: “Oba Akiolu was well represented at the coronation of Ooni of Ife, which attested to the fact that he does not disregard the office of Ooni Adeyeye.”
Chief Ajose said Oba Akiolu had waited till this time to react to the issue because he had to rub minds before addressing the public on the matter.
“There is no sentiment in the culture of Lagos. As we met it, that is the way we are doing it,” he explained. “Kabiyesi Oba Akiolu is trying to bring back the old pattern, the old culture we have left behind. What happened that day was wrongly speculated by the social media to disrupt peace and order and misinterpret Oba Akiolu’s action.
“We just want to appeal to the social media to stop spreading wrong information. People should try and understand the reason behind every action carried out, most especially by traditional rulers. Yoruba has a very rich culture, and there is no quarrel between the Oba of Lagos and the Ooni of Ife.”
The Palace Watch then put a call through to Moses Olafare, the Director, Media and Public Affairs at the Ooni’s Palace, who said: “as far as that incident was concerned, the Ooni of Ife has since put it behind him. Since His Imperial Majesty’s enthronement 15 months ago, he has done everything within his powers to promote peaceful co-existence among the Yoruba Obas. He made it clear, right from inception that he is not in competition with any Oba. He has gone ahead to demonstrate this, by paying courtesy visits to the Alaafin of Oyo, the Alake of Egba land, Awujale of Ijebu land and the Oba of Lagos.
“He has also paid similar visits to other traditional rulers across the country. In the past, the general allegations people were making was that the immediate past Ooni was arrogant. Now, we now have an Ooni that is humble, and he is being treated with contempt. This is sad. Anyway, this will not distract the Ooni from his global pursuit of peace and showcasing Yoruba’s rich cultural values and tradition. The Ooni has also embarked on various overseas tours to promote peace, which the average African is known for. Wherever he went, he preached peaceful co-existence among all races across the globe. When he visited the Archbishop of Canterbury, the latter was magnanimous enough to tell the Ooni, ‘They have done their researches and, indeed, discovered that civilization began from Africa.’
“At the Buckingham Palace, Princes Charles and Andrew gave the Ooni a rousing welcome. This same peace tour took the Ooni to other African countries, including Ghana, where he was the guest of former President of Ghana. Nothing will ever distract the Ooni from his self-imposed mission of preaching and promoting peaceful co-existence alongside showcasing the rich cultural values of Africa the world over. That singular incident will not in any way stop the Ooni from respecting Oba Akiolu of Lagos whenever and wherever he meets him.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has also commended the Ooni of Ife, saying: “Age does not define maturity. Oba Akiolu of Lagos is 74 years old, while the Ooni is 45 years old.”
In his reaction, Lagos Lawyer, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa said: “I have watched an online video, wherein the Oba of Lagos seemed to decline the overtures of the Ooni of Ife, in a public gathering. I do not intend to dwell on the status of both Obas, and I think elders should appreciate and reciprocate courtesies from their juniors, since respect is reciprocal.
“That said, however, I believe the Ooni needs to ponder on a number of things. In this time of recession, the usually large entourage of the respected king should be appropriately trimmed down. In that particular video, it was clear that the Ooni came late to the event, if not very late, as the Obi of Onitsha and the Oba of Lagos were already seated. To that extent, it behooves the Ooni to temper his protocol. I saw his retinue of aids falling over themselves to clean his chair and cover him from public glare, whilst sitting down.
“I have watched the Queen of England on a number of occasions, and even the immediate past Ooni, and I cannot reconcile the flamboyant lifestyle of the present Ooni with royalty. It even gets bigger, when the Ooni travels abroad. I know the Ooni personally, and have had cause to interact with him on some business and legal transactions before his enthronement. He is a very hardworking and humble individual. And I know he has many estates scattered all over Lagos. So, I do hope and believe that state resources are not involved in sustaining his opulent lifestyle.
“My concern is that the Ooni should learn some lessons from the current travails of the Emir of Kano. Obas should not live larger than life and their public outings should always reflect the mood of the nation and their immediate constituencies. That is not the case with the Ooni presently.
“I do not by any means support the action of the Oba of Lagos on this occasion, but I believe that the Ooni should endeavour to arrive early at public gatherings and if and when he arrives late, he should temper his protocols to avoid disruptions and distractions, especially if his elders are already seated. The Ooni still has a long way to go, so he should take things easy. I wish him well in all his endeavours.”
When Palace Watch contacted Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu land for his comments on the matter, the Kabiyesi said: “Although it will not be nice for me to comment on whatever disagreement there is between the Ooni of Ife and Oba Akiolu of Lagos, it will be right and proper for the Ooni to moderate the large entourage he moves about with. The Ooni could handle his culture the way he likes in his own domain. There is, therefore, no need for him to go about disturbing the peace of other people with the very large entourage he takes around.”
Oba Adetona, however, called for caution, saying: “There is absolutely no need for the present rivalry among Yoruba Obas, as this attitude will not help us. As we speak today, the Olugbo of Ugbo land will not return to Ile-Ife to rule the Ife people. The Ooni, on his part, will not go to Ugbo land to try to rule the Ugbo people. Awujale will not go to Egba to colonise them, just like the Alake will not come to Ijebu here. Every Oba has his own domain, so why all this wahala? We all know our fathers. It is absolutely not necessary what we the South West Obas are doing to themselves.”
The Olugbo of Ugbo land, Oba Dr. Frederick Enitiolorunda Obateru Akinruntan, is the current Chairman of Yoruba Obas Conflict Resolution Committee. His Special Adviser on media, Oladejo Olawale, said it is not traditional for Obas to embrace themselves in public or shake hands. Yoruba Obas have traditional ways of exchanging pleasantries.
“Whatsoever might be the case between Ooni and Oba Akiolu, there would have been better ways of handling matters like such in public, especially among Obas,” he explained.
When asked whether the Olugbo of Ugbo land will wade into the matter to see how it could be resolved, he said, “Yes, if the need ever arises.”