originally from ngrguardiannews.com
er 19, 2010
IFAYEMI ELEBURIBON-GREAT BABALAWO BECOMES THE ARABA OF ALL BABALAWOS IN OSUN STATE!-E KU ORI RE O!
The Making Of Ifa ArchBishop, Elebuibon
Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:00 By Ajibola Amzat Saturday Magazine – Saturday Magazine
RECENTLY, the renowned traditionalist, High Priest Ifayemi Osundagbonu Elebuibon ascended to the highest rank of Ifa prieshood in Osogbo, Osun State. His coronation as the 11th Araba Awo of Osogboland at the palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo, which drew visitors from Nigeria and overseas was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. AJIBOLA AMZAT was at the event.
It was a huge crowd for such event. But like people on pilgrimage to holy ground, the natives and guests turned out in large number, thronging towards the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo to witness the coronation of High Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon as the 11th Araba Awo of Osogboland.
It is the highest office in the hierarchy of Ifa priesthood, the equivalent of archbishop in Catholic order. Therefore, no one wanted to miss the historic event, it appeared.
At the palace, men, women, old and young, were dressed in variety of Aso Ebi. Some were sitting, many standing all waiting, eager to see the Araba-elect emerge from the sanctuary where he had been sheltered for a while. Yet, he is the same man they have been seen for decades. His popular TV programme, ‘Ifa Olookun Asorodayo’ has made him a household name. He is probably the most famous son of the soil that lives among them. Yet, they are eager to see him again.
But the Ataoja, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, Larooye II was not in a hurry.
While the short wait lasted, the king’s praise singer’s voice rent the air. His rendition was as sonorous as it was informative. Oba Oyetunji whose recent coronation as the new Ataoja is of Larooye lineage. His ancestor, one of the patriarchs of the ancient town was the first king to reign. He and his bosom friend Timehin, the hunter had once led a live elephant into town, tamed. Their subsequent encounter with water deity mother, Osun, brought great fortunes to Osogbo, the town now proudly known as a settlement of indigo dye, and a refuge for victims of war. The is why natives of Osogbo celebrate Osun festival every year. The king’s praise-singer knows this history and more. He knows about the deeds and times of various royalties.
And at occasions like this, he is allowed to display his knowledge.
Finally, when it pleased Ataoja to stop him, he waived his horsetail, and the man went quiet instantly.
It was the time for Abese, the palace messengers to bring the candidate for coronation.
High priest Elebuibon, dressed in flowing silk materials, the colour of cow milk, was ushered in. Eesa, another titled chief introduced the Araba-elect to the king and the people:
“Kabiyesi and dear people of Osogbo, here is the man the community has chosen as the new Araba of Osogboland. Yes or No?” And the people chorused ‘yes!. Such applause! It reverberated throughout the area.
The king then took Akoko leaves, tucked it inside the dog-ears cap of the new chief; handed him a brass machete on the right hand and a horse tail on the left hand. Then after invoking blessings on him, he declared him the head of all priests in Oshogboland. And the people applause accompanied with several gunshots thundered through the town. The rites completed, Chief Elebuibon stood, staring ahead perhaps at the challenges that await him, for the title of Araba is the most revered, most influential position in Ifa priesthood.
As Araba, he explained, the spiritual welfare of the town is now his primary responsibility. “Araba Awo is not only the head of all priests, but also the head of all herbalists, diviners and all kinds of traditional spiritual consultants in the land. He is the representative of Orunmila (the patron saint of the Ifa School) father of mystery and keeper of secrets.
It is the duty of the Araba to reveal messages of Olodumare to the community through the king and prescribes solutions to problems. In fact, no king can administer his domain in Yorubaland successfully without his priest in residence. Usually, the priest is both the spiritual adviser to the king and the friend of the royalty. “When the town is in chaos, Ifa priests must be consulted to prescribe propitiation to end the calamity and cause the progress to return.”
An Ifa chapter (Odu) Iretengbe gives the account of an Ifa priest, Olongbojigolo who was a popular diviner in the ancient town of Apa. A small town, it was yet prosperous. And because of its prosperity, the rulers of Oyo Kingdom usually targeted it for raids. The king of Alapa sought the spiritual help of his friend, Olongbojigolo who used his spiritual power to defend the town. But the principalities of Oyo Kingdom were not only experienced military men, they were also schooled in stratagem. When they discovered that Olongbojigolo, the great diviner was the force behind the town of Apa, they sent one of Alafin’s daughters, Princess Isokunronke to lure the priest out of town. Isokunronke, a lady of irresistible beauty was the cynosure of all eyes anywhere she went. Many young men of Oyo were ready to worship at her feet or go to battle for her.
To get her quarry, Isokunronke disguised as a kolanut seller and headed for Ologbojigolo’s house in Apa. Expectedly, the priest fell in love and agreed to follow the princess to live in Oyo as her term for marriage.
When Olongbojigolo was out of the way, the Oyo army invaded Apa, killed the king and sacked the town.
This tragic incident in history made kings in Yorubaland keep close relationship with their priest. As the principal administrators of the town, the two normally swear an oath of trust and friendship in the interest of the community. The secret oath between the king and his chief priest is said to be stronger than oath taking among Ogboni cult. It was forbidden for the priest to reveal any confidential matter of the town to the public, or worse still, to the enemy of the town. Wiwo lenu awo o wo, the lips of the priest must be sealed. This is how important a priest is in the administration of traditional Yoruba community.
But giving a priest the title of Araba Awo puts a stamp of authority on such a priest. “It is the equivalent of archbishop in the Catholic order. Even before a king is selected, the Ifa priest must be consulted for advice.” Elebuibon said.
In Yoruba worldview, the living, the dead, the unborn and the spiritual beings – all cohabit in a community. And interactivity must be smooth for harmony and peace to reign. It is the duty of the Araba also to ensure cordial relations among all members of the community.
In the past, according to Chief Elebuibon, the Oluawo was regarded as the head of all priests in Osogbo, until Ikujenyo Ikujenlowo, a sojourner in Ibadan town came back to Osogbo with the title of Araba.
Ikujenyo, a native of Osogbo used his knowledge and skill to help the Ibadan people during Kutuje and Atadi wars. And he was made Araba. It was after him that others like Bashorun Ogunmola of Ibadan and Ibikunle were also made Araba.
When he came back to Osogbo with his title, he became the head of all priests in the land. Henceforth, Araba became the highest title for priesthood in Osogbo.
After him was Araba Awonoyi Adeyemi Kehinde of Amubiorogun Compound who was the maternal grand father of Yemi Elebuibon. He was the longest serving Araba.
Other Araba after him were Araba Oyelade of Arewekoro Compound, Araba Falade of Aleshiloye Compound, Araba Oyafemi of Adelakun Compound, Araba Ifaniyi of Aleegun Compound, Araba Ifatoki of Otuyo Compound, Araba Oyagoke Adisa of Eleye Compound, Araba Fabunmi Afolabi of Aboyede Fetuata Compound, Araba Ifagbemi Akani Omotosho of Onipon Compound. Araba Ifayemi Elebuibon is of Oluode Aturuku Compound.
Chief ifayemi explained that Araba is not a hereditary title (Ajewo), rather it is rotational (Oye ori-Odo) . This means that anyone who meets all the requirements for the office could be so honoured. But it is no mean task for any hopeful to rise through the ranks. The hierarchy includes Awise, Ojugbona, Alara, Olojowu, Erinmi, Lagbongbon, Aseda, Akoda and Araba.
According to Baba Awo, as Elebuibon is fondly called by his spiritual children, many of whom came from America and Europe to celebrate with him, the knowledge of Ifa, the character and the contribution of an individual in the town are the criteria that qualify a person for the title of Araba.
In all these, Chief Elebuibon is distinguished. First, he is of the lineage recognised as authorities on Yoruba tradition. He is a direct descendant of Olutimehin, one of the co-founders of the ancient town. From age four, he had been learning at the feet of “the masters”, including his father and his father’s friends who were also priests. While Chief Elebuibon did not attend formal school, he went through correspondence courses, which put him in a better stead among his contemporaries.
Today, Chief Elebuibon is a poet, performing artiste, playwright, herbalist and practicing Ifa priest. He has published several books and scholarly papers on various aspects of Yoruba traditional religion and culture.
His traditional morality drama, Ifa Olokun Asorodayo culled from Odu Ifa ran on Nigeria National Televison Network for years.
Chief Elebuibon is an international scholar in-residence at San Francisco State University, California USA where he lectures on African Traditional religion and philosophy.
He has been on lecture tour in United States at Wajumba Cultural Institution and national Black theatre in Harlem.
In 1973, he traveled with Duro Ladipo to Paris to perform at festival mudial du theatre; went with him to Brazil for the performance of Obakoso.
He is the founder of Ancient Philosophy International in Osogbo, a centre dedicated to teaching African Traditional Religion and performing arts. He has also been honoured with a doctorate degree of the Brandice University, USA. He was appointed the Vice Chairman of Board of Traditional Medicine, Osun State, and he is presently the President of International Congress of Orisa Tradition and culture, Nigeria Chapter.
Elebuibon is of the view that the post modern African states have lost the essence of their being when they threw away their traditions for western civilization. He said the place of Ifa in African society is as significant today as it was in the past. “The president, the governor and even the local council chairmen could achieve better administration if they consult Ifa Oracle from time to time before taking decisions.”
The high priest likened many of the political leaders to blind men leading a community of the blind.
“Many of them are spiritually blind, and a society ruled by the blind cannot progress.” He therefore advised leaders to retrace their steps to the path toed by their forebears.
Chief Ifayemi has never left that path. This is the reason he is regarded as one the most distinguished traditionalists that ever came out of Africa. No wonder, he was made the Araba. It was indeed an exultant Elebuibon that rode back home on a black horse from the Ataoja’s palace with his kith and kin and well wishers in his wake. It was a day when the rumble of drums mixed with the boom of guns on a crowded road where many thousands of feet met in ecstatic dance. It was a day an Ifa Archbishop was installed in the town popularly known as the centre of arts and culture in Nigeria.