The final burial rites of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, was performed on Friday, but his wives, children and family members were unable to pay their last respects as they were barred from the programme.
Some other people who had expected to see the body of the monarch lie in state were also disappointed as his remains were neither brought out for people to see nor was any casket displayed during the burial service.
The event was attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Rear Admiral Akin Aduwo (retd.), Gen. Alani Akinriande (retd.), Senator Babajide Omoworare, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko and many other dignitaries and government representatives.
Traditional prayers were offered for the late monarch by Tadimole Awo Ilare, Chief Faloba. The event was conducted in less than three hours.
A source at the palace told one of our correspondents that no member of the royal family was allowed to see the remains of the monarch since he was brought back to the palace.
He said, “As we are holding this interdenominational service here, those concerned are performing their own rites inside the palace where the body is kept.
“You can see that the gates of the palace are locked and nobody is allowed to go inside. Nobody can see him again except those who will bury him.
“The wives and children were not even supposed to see his corpse at all but tradition was broken this time around because he (Sijuwade) died in London. But no family member can see him again. Those performing the rites are there now and they will complete it today (Friday). He will be buried in the middle of the night, but nobody will be there apart from those who will lower him into the grave.”
The source said those who saw the bodies of the previous Oonis were attacked by smallpox and did not survive the ailment.
A monarch in Osun State, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed to one of our correspondents that traditional rulers of the town went to various shrines, including the Obalufon shrine in Ife to perform some rites for Sijuwade on Friday.
He said the traditional rulers later went into Ooni’s palace shortly before an interdenominational burial service for the king commenced on the palace premises.
The monarch said, “Nobody can see the Ooni, not even the US President, Barrack Obama. We are with him. It’s only the initiates who can see him. His wives and children cannot see him.”
During the service, the Preacher, Bishop of Ife Diocese of Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Oluranti Odubogun, said despite his riches, Oba Sijuwade died when it was God’s time to take him away.
The bishop, who was represented by the Very Rev. Olusola Akanbi, said the Ooni brought fame and popularity to his domain.
His said the monarch’s demise demonstrated that every mortal man would die no matter their status.
He said, “Baba has gone. He will stand before the King of Kings who will judge what he did while here on earth.
“Some persons have started jostling to succeed him now but we must all remember the judgement day when we will give account of all that we did on earth.
“I urge you to make today a memorable one and give your life to Christ. Jesus is the only way, accept him today.”
But as the interdenominational service was about to take off, there was a mild drama as worshippers of Oro cult in Ife, also called Isoro, stormed the venue and attempted to stop the service. The worshippers claimed that it was a sacrilege to hold an interdenominational service for the departed king. And as the service went on outside the palace, the traditional worshippers sang and danced inside the palace.
Also, our correspondents learnt that as part of the palace tradition and custom, women are forbidden from entering the palace while traditional rites are being performed for a passing monarch.
As the interdenominational service was going on, sounds of gunshots suddenly rent the air, making some of those present at the service to scamper for safety.
A reliable source told Saturday PUNCH that more gunshots would be fired later in the day, as from 5.00 pm, adding that curfew to last for seven days would start by 4.00 pm on Friday.
One of the palace chiefs, Sooko Adelugba, told one of our correspondents that many parts of the town had already been deserted by residents who were eager to comply with the curfew as announced by the palace.
One of the initiates told one of our correspondents who had tried to interview him that it was an abomination to speak publicly of traditional rites offered for a departed Ooni.
His final resting place
Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged as to why the monarch would be buried beside the immediate past Ooni, Oba Adesoji Aderemi.
It was gathered that the cemetery inside the palace, where other Oonis were buried, was full, which informed the decision to build a mausoleum inside the palace for Oba Aderemi.
The mausoleum is said to be located at the rear end of the palace.
A palace source said the final resting place of Sijuwade had been constructed in the mausoleum, adding that the cemetery inside the palace is called Ile Nla (mighty house).
Traditionalists clash with residents
The worshippers of Oro cult in Ife, also called ‘Isoro’, clashed with residents who were erecting tents for the interdenominational burial service at the frontage of Enuwa Palace.
A prominent chief in Ife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ‘Isoro’ descended on the people who erected the tents because they (initiates) wanted to observe a seven-day burial rites for the departed king.
The chief said, “The ‘Isoro’ saw the erection of tents for an interdenominational burial service as a sacrilege against custom and tradition.
“They descended on the people erecting the tents and flogged them heavily. They destroyed the tents and swore never to allow anybody do any interdenominational service at the palace.”
The chief revealed that the state government had to wade into the crisis before the service was allowed.
He said, “It took the intervention of officials of the state government, who appealed to the ‘Isoro’ to allow the people to hold the interdenominational service before the issue was resolved. If not for the intervention of the state government, the interdenominational service would not have been allowed.”
Meanwhile, Saturday PUNCH learnt that Sijuwade’s family members flew to see his body immediately after he transited in a highbrow hospital in England.
Investigation by Saturday PUNCH revealed that Sijuwade’s eldest son, Tokunbo, and some other family members flew to England immediately the monarch breathed his last to join the king’s three wives, Morisola, Ladun and Odunola – who were already there.
Morisola is the eldest wife, Ladun is the second wife and Odunola, who is the daughter of the immediate past Orangun of Ila, is the youngest wife.
It was learnt that the family members flew down to England to pay their last respect to the departed monarch.
The Araba of Osogbo land, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Friday, disclosed that the corpse of the Ooni belonged to Ile-Ife and not his family.
He said, “The traditional burial rites of the kings of Ile-Ife and Oyo are strictly complied with and they are comprehensive.
“When the Ooni dies, the body becomes that of the town. The ‘Isoro’ cult group will take over. The ‘Isoro’ initiates are the ones who worship the ‘Oro’ deity.
“It is the ‘Isoro’ people that would inform the various deities, who were worshipped and appeased when the Ooni was crowned, that he (the monarch) is no more.
“It’s a rite. Nothing must stop it.”
The Araba dispelled the belief that the heart of the late king would be fed to the next Ooni.
He said, “The eating of the heart of a departed King by an incoming one belonged to the past. It no longer exists. People still make this insinuation because many are barred from witnessing the burial of a king.
“What the incoming king will eat is the heart of an animal and not that of a human. Nobody would be buried with the Ooni. Nobody would be killed for any form of sacrifice.”
Elebuibon explained that animals are now used for the burial rites of Yoruba Obas because of modernisation, noting that Christianity and Islam also stopped the use of humans for sacrifice when God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, Isaac.