Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, Provost, School of Humanities and Culture, Osun State University, Ikire campus and Chairman of 4th World Conference of Mayors went down historical lane. Oyeweso narrated how the great grandfathers of Oba Olubuse II and the institution of the Ooni was revered and feared as the spiritual head of Yoruba nation.
The story went thus; the Ooni was asked to come to Lagos in 1903 by the British Colonial government to testify in a case between the Akarigbo of Remo and Elepe. In those days, no one could look in the face of the Ooni. All Yoruba kings under his authority and who domiciled along the route the Ooni was to pass to Lagos moved out of their bases and they did not sleep until the Ooni returned to Ile-Ife.
The Ooni was feared as a spiritual head. Yoruba Obas had reasoned that what the colonial government demanded from the Ooni was an abomination. For him to leave his palace at Ife and journey to Lagos was unfathomable. A sacrilege!
As Prof. Oyeweso recalled the historical feat, Oba Olubuse II who sat in splendor on the throne, nodded. Then Oyeweso, threw another historical bombshell.
“Only Ede and Ibadan remain cities that developed from military settlements (Army) to state that has people and not state (People) to army!” he said.
That night a crowd of Mayors from all over the world had paid a courtesy visit to the Ooni in the course of the World Conference of Mayors, which took place in Osogbo. Oyeweso, the Chairman of the organising team for the conference, which was supported by the Federal Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Osun State Government, said, “he is a son of the palace because the former Timi of Ede was one of those who used to pay his school fees in those days. This appeared stunning to the Ooni. Oyeweso called himself the ‘son of the warlord’ — the Timi of Ede who was a warrior in those days. It was believed that the arrows of the Timi carried furnaces whenever he shot them. That has become the praise name of descendants of the town.
The professor said Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba race was not a kingdom but an empire. The Ooni of Ile-Ife then gave Prof. Oyeweso an assignment to find out if Ile-Ife, which existed about 8,000 years ago and 4,000 years before Abraham, the patriarch of Jews and Arabs was a Kingdom, Empire or what?
Earlier, Ms. Vanessa Williams, Executive Director of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) thanked the Ooni for the warm reception and for his leadership and for being the king of all kings in Nigeria.
“I have had the opportunity to see the Presidents and Kings all over the world. I have never been so nervous as I have been tonight,” said Ms. Williams.
Robert Bowser, President of NCBM looked in her direction. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. Then she added; “we are happy to be back home. We thank you for preserving our history here.”
It was an emotional moment. The entire hall was in deep silence. Then the royal court’s praise singers interjected; Omi ki o! The King is greeting you! The Ooni beckoned on Ms. Williams to move closer to him. He then began to comfort her. The other visiting Mayors were also moved into tears. They were introduced one after the other.
More surprises were to come. Just as Ms. Williams introduced Dr. Jeffrey, one of the members of the American Mayors entourage, Oba Aderemi Adeniyi-Adedapo, the Olojudo-Alayemore of Ido-Osun, one of the Obas in the Kingdom exclaimed: “that’s my teacher!”
Oba Adeniyi-Adedapo called on Funlola Olorunnishola, the Media Advisor of the Ooni, Folusho Adedigba and Mr. Smollett Shittu-Alamu — members of the committee in charge of the visit to the palace to give him the microphone. Oba Adeniyi-Adedapo began to make some revelations.
The Oba told the gathering that Dr. Jeffrey was his teacher in the United States when he was studying for a degree in Architecture.
Said he; “Dr. Jeffrey, you will remember that I used to tell you in America that I am a prince in Africa. I am so overwhelmed tonight. I want to let you know that I am now a king under His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Kabiyesi, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II”
Turning to the Ooni, Oba Adeniyi-Adedapo said: “these are the people who made me what I am when I was in America for 25years. Architecture was my major. Dr. Jeffrey gave us moral, financial support and everything when I was in America. He was a father figure to us.”
Looking in the direction of Dr. Jeffrey, the Oba said; “I cannot thank you enough. You are back home in Nigeria even though I am aware you are very close to Ghana. But this is your real home. The Ashantehene and the King of Accra know their father king is His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile- Ife. You are welcome back home. I thank you and I thank America your country for harbouring me for 25years. I went there with nothing and I came back home as an Architect and I am so proud of that country. God bless America, God bless the black race, God bless Ooni and God bless Nigeria!”
The Ooni later told the visitors that the population of those who claim ancestry to Yoruba race is about 240 million. They are found in Nigeria, USA, the Caribbean, Haiti, Venezuela, Argentina etc. He said even though in a place like Argentina, you have predominantly white people, a large percentage became white because of years of inter marriage.
The Ooni noted that there are several countries outside the USA where blacks also rule like President Barak Obama.
Earlier, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Governor of Osun State said at the opening ceremony that urbanisation in Nigeria had brought municipal challenges like insecurity, housing, food, transportation, health care provision, education, jobs, waste disposal and social welfare.
“While the development countries still grapple with these problems, the situation in developing countries can be worse”, said Aregbesola.
At the closing ceremony of the one-week event Mr. Robert Bowser, President of National Conference of Black Mayors, Atlanta, said that it was a great opportunity for the Mayors to be present in Osun State. Bowser said the Mayors had seen Osun State and they had also seen the challenges the people face in the area of health, waste management, sanitation, infrastructure, education etc. He called on the state government to involve them in schemes to tackle some of the problems facing the state.
A Feast of Return, a dance drama written and produced by the poet, Odia Ofeimun, was performed at the event with other cultural dances. Present at the event were many traditional rulers in Osun State including Oba Oladele Olashore, the Aloko of Iloko-Ijesha; Oba Dokun Abolurin, the Oragun of Oke-Ila, Oba Rasheed Olasubomi, the Aragbiji of Iragbiji.