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On The Trail Of Ooni

 

Ooni-elect Ogunwusi

Ooni-elect Ogunwusi

It is Thursday morning, the day after the triumphant entry of the Ooni-elect, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, into Ile-Ife. By 7 am, the youths of Ife has started trooping into the compound of his newly built house at Parakin. It is a large impressive house painted in chalk-white. According to the youths, they come for royal blessing. As time ticks; their number increases. Some take seat by the white fence; some are seated on the plastic chairs under the white canopy, while the rest mill around the compound in anticipation of the appearance of the king-elect.

At the entrance, not fewer than five policemen are seen engaging in early morning banter. They need such pre-occupation to pass time while keeping watchful eyes on the visitors. And they have a long day ahead because the king-elect will be entering Ilofi today. That is the initiation room where he will spend 21 days before coronation.

According to Chief Babajide Awoyoda, the head keeper of the initiation house, Ooni-elect used to spend 90 days inside Ilofi. But time has changed a number of things, including the tradition.

The Ooni-elect prays for good fortunes for the youths; progress for the ancient city of Ife and peace for Nigeria. Then he exhorts the youth to shun violence and work hard for better life. “There is no greatness that is beyond you if you work hard. The story of my life should be a testimony to all of you,” he says.  At this point, the entire compound has gone quiet, lapping at every word of the king-elect.

Nearby the fore court of the king’s mansion, a number of hired cooks clustered around deep pots wherefrom curry flavour waft intermittently and mix with gentle breeze of the fragrant morning. It appears the women will be busy cooking all day because the arrivals are unceasing.

In spite of the weary day they all had the previous day, the youths are still bustling with excitement. They are prepared to wait till their king rises. In the mean time, they relive the fanfare of the day before when their king rode into town in black Bentley in the convoys of other exotic cars. His appearance in the town was like the rising of the rainbow from distant beyond, someone remarks. Another exclaims that he had never seen a mammoth crowd such as the one that came to behold the king.

“Ile-Ife has never seen this kind of crowd in my lifetime,” says a man who identifies himself as a professional drummer.
While they exchange the banter, the king-elect emerges onto the balcony from an upstairs room.  He is simply dressed in white buba lace and a purple cap. The cap is folded frontward, a style that is fast becoming his signature.  When they sight him, everyone goes down in greetings, and choruses “K-a-b-i-s-i o!”   They follow up the chorus with praises. They liken the oba-elect to the power that sends trepidation into the hearts of the brave; to the fearsome spirit that frightens the infants like dark night, and to the most powerful animal in the jungle, the strongest creature in the ocean, and the rest. The panegyrics simply courses through their mouth effortlessly, though its rendition is a bit riotous. A gentle smile breaks forth across the king’s face as he listens to the excited youth, and he begins to bless them.

“Good fortunes will seek you out,” he prays. His audience choruses back, “ase!” Now he stretches his right hand at them, “Good fortune will abide by you.” They respond in similar way. Realising that the blessing session is gong on, other people including members of his household dash out from various corners of the compound to partake in the royal benediction.  I join them.

The Ooni-elect prays for good fortunes for the youths; progress for the ancient city of Ife and peace for Nigeria. Then he exhorts the youth to shun violence and work hard for better life. “There is no greatness that is beyond you if you work hard. The story of my life should be a testimony to all of you,” he says.  At this point, the entire compound has gone quiet, lapping at every word of the king-elect.

He calls out a couple of the youths and showcases them to others as role models. One of them was the artisan who constructed the iron balustrade on the balcony where the king is presently standing. Then he remembers the young man who blew trumpet so beautifully in his praise during his arrival yesterday. But the boy is yet to arrive. “Please bring that young man to me anytime he shows up.

He is a good talent that must be nurtured,” he orders. His friends assure the king-elect that the boy is a palace trumpeter, “he will be at your service as you want, your highness,” they say.

Then his sister standing by his side points at me. He looks towards my direction and recognizes me. “The Guardian man. Let someone bring him upstairs.” He knows I want an exclusive interview. I have been on is trail since he was announced as Ooni-elect. And as I begin to thank my star that I finally get what brings me to Ife, he drops the bombshell. “The interview will not happen today,” he tells me. He says I will have to wait till he returns from Ilofi, the royal initiation room where he will spend 21 days.

Three weeks is a long time in the news cycle.  In the information age driven by fast technology, three weeks is an eternity. I plead with him for a brief chat. I want the king-elect to say something. Anything. Whatever he says is news. He is the Ooni, the sovereignty whose influence extends across all Yoruba kingdoms within and beyond the Nigerian territory. Patiently he listens to me, and when he begins to speak his voice comes as a whisper. “Don’t worry I will speak to you as soon as possible. I will speak to you about my dream for the youths of this country. I will speak to you about how our nation can leapfrog into industrial age simply by leveraging on the power of the youths. I will speak to you about how we can achieve peace that is enduring at national and communal level just by engaging the youths of this country constructively.  I will speak to you about my own story as a youth, and the spirit of possibility that drives my humble achievements in life. I represent the youth voice. And I have a lot to share about the aspiration of the youths of this country. But you will need to come back to Ife, I am afraid I can’t talk yet.” With this assurance, the king bids me farewell. What else do I need at this point? The king has already spoken. And his message his clear: It is a new dawn for the youths of Ile- Ife.

Enitan In The Eyes Of Family and Friends
From Parakin, I headed to the house of the father of the king-elect, Prince Ropo Ogunwusi.
At his house, the situation is not different. Friends, family and clergies throng in to celebrate with the man whose son will lead the ancient city that has existed hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

Prince Ogunwusi is everywhere in his large living room acknowledging greetings and goodwill from visitors.  One of such visitors is his childhood friend, Pastor Akin Akinsolugba who also worked with him as radio anchorman at Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) and Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC). In the 80s and 90s, Akinsolugba was a household name in the radio that people resident in Oyo or Osun states will be familiar with.  He described the king-elect as a child of wonder from birth. “I used to call him Alenu ma jeun because he hardly eats as a child.”

The king’s uncle, Prince Olufemi Adekitan Ogunwusi echoed the same sentiment.

He is a “man with Midas touch”. According to him, whatever Enitan touches becomes successful. “He has always being forward looking and hardworking.  I want him to use his influence to bring trade and commerce to Ife.”

His other uncle, Prince… expressed gratitude to God for electing their son the king 120 years after the reign of their great-great grandfather, the Ojaja 1. He says the king-elect has been destined to lead. “Adeyeye has always been a humble boy, we heard prophesy about him that he would be great but we didn’t know that it would turn out this way because he still has two elder brothers. He is the last son of his father.”

But if there was a prophesy about him, why did one of his brothers, Adetunji Ogunwusi contested the stool? Prince says, it is only insanity that man does not contest for. “Every good office such as Ooni stool is open for contest by princes. And Adetunji is also a prince, so he has a right to struggle for it. Ooni stool is a powerful office. But it is God that makes king.”

While he was speaking, a group of white-garment church members walk into the house to celebrate with the Ogunwusi’s. They rain torrent of prayer on the family and the new king. The king father also pray for the clergies.

While visitors are busy with lunch, I sneak into the room with the Prince Ogunwusi for an interview. The 30 minutes interview is reproduced below.

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