Between Yar’adua And The Ooni
Death which is the necessary end for all mortals which is supposed to be the normal transition portal to eternal bliss or ignominy seems to assume a curious dimension in Nigeria especially among the elite. One of the flaws of the African leadership is that of a sit tight mentality. One wonders whether there is also an undue attachment to life rather than let nature take its due course and rejoice over the transition which should not cause an unnecessary fuss. It is fast becoming one of the foibles of the Nigerian elite which is now a locus classicus for a biting satire.
The nation remembers how a cabal held us to ransom when the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua fell ill and left without handing over power to former President Goodluck Jonathan to hold forte till his return. The media frenzy was extremely high as his departure was shrouded in utmost secrecy. He had to be relocated from Germany to Saudi Arabia as the European hospital was too porous to be kept away from the prying eyes of the public – the very public that gave his leadership legitimacy and the supposed accountability. It was so bad that even Jonathan his then vice-president and the members of the federal executive council were kept in the dark as to the actual goings on in the Holy Land. Jonathan was at the mercy of his boss’s aide-de-camp and chief security officer for information which made the whole process worse than a laughing stock. Protests had to be staged by public spirited Nigerians to get the power transfer. Yar’adua was then sneaked in the dead of the night without the knowledge of some key members of the security forces and then pronouncements were made in his name. He was even said to have granted an interview where his voice was so incoherent that it was crystal clear that some mischief makers mercilessly doctored the process for their selfish interests.
The Ooni of Ile-Ife, Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II is also in this quagmire. The only difference is that he is not an elected individual but a parallel can still be drawn as this provides adequate material for the theatre of the absurd. His position is of pre-eminence in the Nigerian political stratosphere as he is regarded as the spiritual leader of the Yoruba nation. Forget the age-long tussle between him and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. It ought not to have occurred as Ile-Ife is the spiritual home of the Yorubas. Oyo only became a powerful empire at some point in history but that did not negate the pride of place that Ife occupies. It is a well-known fact that the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ile-Ife are the two key traditional rulers that are co-opted by the political class in the decision making process.
Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, Sijuwade’s predecessor had the status of a demi-god. He was the first Governor of the defunct western region, held court with the political and royal establishment of Britain, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and was a confidante of the legendary Winston Churchill. No traditional ruler in the history of Nigeria had half his clout. He lifted his dignified position to such a level that Queen Elizabeth II sent a representative for the coronation of his successor, Sijuwade on December 6, 1980.
It is sad that the nation has been held hostage by a band of his chiefs as to the true status of his existence. The media gets different reports on an hourly basis and it is rather tragic. Why should the revered Ooni now be turned into an object of spectacle? Something doesn’t just add up. He was said to have been flown to St. Mary’s hospital in Paddington, London for the treatment of an undisclosed ailment. There are records that can be sought. There is a death register that can be looked into. The hospital is not a run-of-the-mill health institution. It was the first to pioneer the use of robotic surgery in the entire United Kingdom. Getting access to the records should not be a big deal. This joke has been taken too far and it is high time a halt is put to it.
More hilarious was the fact that his son – Adegbite got married to popular television personality, Dolapo Oni with his staff of office as the symbol. What can we make of this? Wole Soyinka’s ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ comes readily to mind here. Is life so sweet that it must be clung unto at all cost? Shouldn’t mortals heed the eternal words of William Shakespeare to quit the stage while the ovation is loudest?
Activities in the ancient city have now been disrupted as residents do not know what is going on. Commercial activities are now on a stand still as the markets have been shut down. Is it really fair on them taking into cognizance the precarious situation in the state no thanks to the non-payment of civil servants’ salaries for eight months? Why should ignorant market women bear the brunt of a cabal masquerading themselves as Chiefs who have refused to tell the whole world what is going on and let the succession rites begin if he has truly passed on? Why should the body of the Ooni be sneaked in and persistent denials hold sway because of some sinister selfish interest?
This charade should come to an end and the chiefs should perform their responsibility of properly announcing his death and should stop diminishing the sacred stool of the leader of the Yoruba nation whose cultural influence and language spread spans continents.