Reasons Obas vulnerable to kidnappers – Traditionalists
By Babatunde Ayedoju
Known for their colourful crowns, elegant beads, and pure white horsetails, along with their flowing agbada and staff of office, kings or obas in Yoruba land have, since time immemorial, been referred to as igbakeji òrìsà (second in command to the gods). Yoruba Kings especially were reputed for their supernatural powers which made them invulnerable to both physical and spiritual attacks.
Kings were untouchable in every sense, as a mortal could hardly approach them. The mere sight of some Yoruba obas was said to evoke fear in people, such that looking them in the face was not an option.
Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be the case, as there are now stories of kings being attacked and killed by mortals who should have trembled at the sight of them.
On Monday, January 29, 2024, three monarchs from Ekiti State came under attack in Ajoni Local Government Area of the state. The three monarchs were the Elesun of Esun-Ekiti, Oba David Ogunsakin; the Onimojo of Imojo-Ekiti, Oba Samuel Olatunji; and the Alara of Ara-Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba. They were said to be on their way from a meeting on that fateful day when armed assailants suddenly emerged from the forest and opened fire on them.
The unfortunate incident led to the death of the Onimojo of Imojo-Ekiti, and the Elesun of Esun-Ekiti, while the Alara of Ara-Ekiti reportedly escaped from the scene. Shortly after the attack, a video surfaced online showing the bodies of the slain traditional rulers as they were carried by some young men into nearby a pickup van, with blood flowing from their wounds.
Barely three days after the Ekiti incident, in Koro town, Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, some unknown assailants reportedly invaded the palace and shot dead the traditional ruler of the town, Oba Segun Aremu, even as they also abducted his wife and two others.
While concerned citizens are still struggling to get over the shock of what happened, the Nigeria Police Force, through its Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, disclosed the arrest of 13 suspects over the killing of the two traditional rulers in Ekiti State.
Speaking on a television programme, Mr. Adejobi said, “Now, we have 13 suspects arrested so far in connection with that incident, and we are sure we are going to get more of these suspects. We are working with them (suspects) and they are giving us reliable and useful information. We are sure and optimistic that we are going to get all of them apprehended and bring them to book.”
An Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Dare Ogundare, said that one of the suspects, Babusa Lede, confessed his involvement in the killing of the two Ekiti monarchs.
Lede, while speaking with newsmen, confessed to being among the suspects who attacked the traditional rulers, saying, “We were five that came to the road for the operation. I am a herder and I have my cows in the bush. The other four threatened to shoot me if I did not join them in the operation.
“They brought the ammunition and I was going about in the bush with my cows when they said I should join. When we were in the bush, we saw the vehicle conveying the three traditional rulers from a distance and we jumped on the road. We didn’t plan to kill the two traditional rulers, but I do not know what happened, and my friends shot them and we ran away. They left the bush immediately.”
Lede added that “they have been kidnapping people for ransom. I joined them once for it; they gave me N5,000 from the money they collected. It was when I came to town from the bush to buy Garri that I was arrested by the security operatives.”
Still fresh in the memory is the assassination of the Olufon of Ifon in Ose Local Government, Oba Israel Adeusi, in 2020. He was said to be returning to his town after a meeting of traditional rulers in Akure when he encountered his killers at Elegbeka, along the Ifon-Benin highway.
Reacting to the needless killing of obas which took place recently, a prominent Ifa priest, the Araba Awo of Osogbo in Osun State, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, attributed the vulnerability of contemporary Yoruba kings to their negligence of traditional practices and ancestral means of protection, a trend he blamed on the influence of foreign religions.
He said, “We do have traditional means of protection in Yorubaland. It is just that the foreign religions that were embraced by Yoruba traditional rulers have rendered them powerless. Most of the monarchs did not go through the necessary rites and rituals, and therefore, they lack the necessary protection like charms that could make someone disappear and reappear, charms that can free someone from clutches when held. They only rely on foreign religions for protection.”
Buttressing his point, he said that before a king sets out on a journey, there are things he must do. He said that a king must be able to see ahead and know if it is a journey he should embark on or not. “He must have a spiritual guardian, but they have abolished all that,” he added.
Lamenting on the abandonment of spiritual fortification by Obas, the Osogbo-based Ifa priest said, “We were all here when gunmen ambushed a certain king right in his palace and shot him dead. In the past, no one dared do such a thing. A king who is spiritually fortified and follows the ancient precepts will not be so vulnerable but now that they are following modern styles, colonial religions, and modern trends, we are seeing what is happening.”
While saying that kings in Yoruba land hardly appeared in public in the past, except during festivals, Elebuibon advised that anybody who was not ready to abide by traditional practices of Yoruba land, because of religious beliefs, should stay away from the throne.
Likewise, he counselled kings and kingmakers to return to their cultural precepts and follow indigenous spirituality, if they expect things to change.
An Akure-based native doctor, Adeniyi Afe Ifasikunola, also blamed the vulnerability of modern Yoruba Obas on the trampling underfoot of ancient Yoruba traditional practices because of modernization.
He noted that genuine obas are now rare in Yoruba land because any king who undergoes the stipulated pre-coronation rites should not die the way Yoruba kings are being killed easily, adding that a genuine Oba should be invincible to all forms of attack.
While pointing out that a lot of modern-day Yoruba kings know almost nothing about Yoruba tradition, Ifasikunola said, “anybody who knows nothing about tradition, normally, should not be allowed to become king. Some people know nothing about their own history and tradition but want to be king because of the prestige attached to that office. Meanwhile, kingship goes beyond prestige. It is a very important position that requires power and strong adherence to ancestral customs. But what do we see nowadays? A king who should not bow before anybody except God Almighty and the deities now kneels before a prophet who lays hands on him.”
The traditionalist recommended that Yorubas should stop allowing foreign religious beliefs to override traditions. He also said that Yoruba elders should go back to the custom of consulting Ifa and performing pre-coronation rites for an oba, instead of succumbing to political influence.
Similarly, another Akure-based native doctor, Jimoh Omole, lamented that the way obas, known as second in command to the gods, are now being killed is uncalled for. Reacting to the abduction of the wife of the king of Koro in Kwara State after the assassination of the monarch, Omole said that in Yoruba land, whatever a king owns, including the wife, is untouchable. He stressed that tampering with a king’s wife attracts severe consequences.
Omole said that ideally, if an oba who has been duly fortified, with full coronation rites performed for him, finds himself in danger, he should be able to disappear from the scene, but the abandonment of customs and traditions has changed the narrative.
Differentiating between coronation in the past and today, Omole said, “Politicians are the ones appointing kings now, but in the past kings were selected by kingmakers under the guidance of Ifa. Back then, the oba-elect would enter a room called Ipebi where he would be fortified. It was the responsibility of every native doctor in the land to fortify the king. Unfortunately, such traditions have been abandoned now.”
While pointing out that Yoruba obas should learn a lesson from what is happening now, Omole advised them to go back to traditional practices that have been abandoned, adding that God has gifted us with enough ancestral and natural powers to fortify us.