Against the groundswell of unfounded rumours concerning the marital well-being or otherwise of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11, it bears reiterating and reminding all and sundry that the institution being discussed with excitable animation is not only profoundly sacred, the monarch’s silence – in the face of a robust commitment to flipping the script on the expediency of traditional monarchy – should be respected, not viewed as a weakness.
For the past two weeks, wild conjectures and wide permutations have dogged the news of the purported separation between the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11, and his beautiful wife, Olori Wuraola. Indeed, the internet is good at spreading rumours as every living soul from Ile-Ife to Illinois and everywhere in between has heard the ‘news’.
More worrisome perhaps is that some dilettante blogs and delinquent news portals have hinged the separation on the Olori’s rumoured dalliances with several prominent Nigerians, some of whom she had never even met. Some others have speculated that the marriage broke down irretrievably when the Ooni declared his readiness to marry a second wife. By Jove, the purveyors of the untruths forget that not only is the Ooni entitled to as many wives as his royal loins can accommodate and satisfy, Olori Wuraola is well aware of this and could never raise or have raised any eyebrow if the discussion came up.
Ironically, the Ooni has refused to personally say anything regarding the news, insisting that he is too busy working day and night and travelling the world to ensure the prosperity and unity of the Yoruba race, to bother about such frivolities. However, a statement signed by his media aide, Comrade Moses Olafare, posited, “The palace is not interested in this rumour as there are lots of positive activities happening every minute so we don’t have time to respond to such noise being created by nonentities.” The Ooni’s silence is no sign of weakness; it is the hallmark of a monarch who is far too driven by his singular commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for Yoruba unity, culture and heritage.
Regarded as the most influential monarch in Black Africa, it bears educating and enlightening the people that the Ooni is no mere mortal. Regarded as belonging to the pantheon of deities that rule the universe, the Ooni is their representative here on earth; and a direct descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. The Ooni, it is, that was mandated by the forebears of the Yoruba race to oversee the affairs of mankind in Yorubaland and elsewhere. As the King of Ile Ife, regarded as the cradle of creation and the centre of the Yoruba polity, the Ooni oversees the affairs of mankind in Yorubaland and elsewhere, serving as the interface between the people and the gods. So, the Ooni’s purported marriage upheaval should not be fodder for the blogosphere. But times have changed. New media has altered communication radically and every fabrication of a puerile mind is celebrated like verified news. This shouldn’t be the same with the Ooni.
Since his enthronement, the Ooni has made the unity, peace and prosperity of the Yoruba race his pivotal focus, not fanning the embers of discord and disunity. Despite the documented frostiness between the thrones of the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo, which has spanned over 79 years, it is on record that Oba Ogunwusi broke that jinx when he paid an unscheduled visit to Oba Lamidi Adeyemi in his palace about three months after he became Ooni. The unprecedented visit made an emotional Alaafin declare, “This special visit was done last in March 1937. That was the first time the kings in Yorubaland met in Oyo town and today, history was made with the visit of Arole Oodua, Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11. I feel delighted to host you and to reassure you that I will be ready to work with you. May your reign be long, Ooni. I am happy with your moves to unite all Yoruba Obas.”
Prior to the celebrated visit to the Alaafin, Oba Ogunwusi had embarked on a familiarisation tour to all Yoruba monarchs during which he preached a harmonious working relationship among them and the need to always speak with one voice. It was in the same vein that he embarked on a 10-day visit to the United Kingdom last March during which he engaged mainstream British cultural leaders, heritage institutions, diplomatic circles and academics to discuss issues of mutual interest, partnership, collaboration, academic transformational networks while rebuilding the scale of support for entrepreneurship skills that are modern, creative and innovative. The Ooni further said that the visit would stimulate further cooperation by promoting Yoruba culture as a genuine catalyst for British government cultural integration projects.
Back home, the youthful Ooni has not lost touch with a major constituency under his monarchy – the youth. Thus, one of the first things he did was to sponsor a musical competition, Ojaja II Musical Talent Hunt & Concert which he figured would facilitate the socio-economic liberation of the youth while drastically reducing crime rate not only in Ile-Ife but also in the entire country. Winner of the contest, Shina Olawale, went home with a brand new car and a record deal in the U.S.A while finalists were given heart-warming consolation prizes. As part of his grand plans to boost tourism in Osun State, the Ooni announced in January 2016 his plans to build a N7.6 billion Grand Resort which he said would empower over 40,000 widows and able-bodied youths in the state.
Indeed, within one year, Oba Ogunwusi has proved and asserted himself as the veritable custodian of Yoruba culture with the unveiling in November 2016 the Statue of Moremi in Ile Ife. Officially known as the Moremi Statue of Liberty, the statue, which immortalises Moremi, a popular heroine in Yoruba folklore, is the tallest in Nigeria and third tallest in Africa, behind The African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal, standing at 161 feet, and the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt which is 66 feet tall. What has become of Ile-Ife and, by extension, Nigeria, in terms of socioeconomic advancements either initiated or facilitated by the widely-adored symbol of Oduduwa, within a little while, are indeed innumerable. As a successful young man in tune with modern times but vested with the powers and responsibilities of an all-powerful monarch, the Ooni has helped to redefine the essence of the ancient seat, while maintaining and elevating the grandeur and reverence reserved for monarchs. Yet, he is doing all these in a rapidly developing world with the rapid atrophy of the essence of monarchy and the increasing menace of social media.
-Kupoluyi, a journalist wrote from Lagos